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Talking about bad news

When tragic events unfold, children need reassurance that they’re protected from harm. Child experts suggest these tips when youngsters ask about a disaster, an accident or other painful news:

  • Communicate your love to them, first and foremost.
  • Assure them that you’ll do everything necessary to protect them.
  • Control your emotions in your children’s presence. Outbursts of fear, anger or worry will undermine your youngsters’ sense of security.
  • Talk over the event, letting your kids tell you their concerns first. Never dismiss their worries with comments like “Don’t be silly.”
  • Show them the difference between good and evil in what’s occurred.
  • Distract them with “bonding” activities such as a board game, a car ride for ice cream, a Frisbee toss or an afternoon at the zoo.
  • Shut off the TV so kids won’t see upsetting news footage over and over.
  • • Emphasize tolerance so kids don’t stereotype other people based on the actions of a few.

When bad news happens, watch closely for changes in your children’s behavior. Some children might act out their anxiety with tantrums, withdrawal, clinging or disrupting class. Others may have upsetting dreams, stomachaches or fatigue.

Usually, these changes pass in a couple of weeks. However, if your kids still seem affected a month or two after the event, seek help from your doctor. And continue to show your love—that way, your children will know they aren’t all alone.