How to Talk to Children About the News, Violence, Trauma

Photo credit: PBS Parents

Photo credit: PBS Parents

Many parents are keeping the television turned off this weekend to shield their children from news reports of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Another choice, is to turn to a TV organization, PBS Parents, for tips on how to talk to children about news:

  • Find out what your child knows about the news.
  • Listen to what your child tells you.
  • Ask a follow-up question.
  • Shield children under age eight from disturbing news.
  • Avoid repeated TV viewings of the same news event.
  • Monitor older children’s exposure to the news.
  • Develop an ongoing dialogue with your child about world happenings

Children of military families live with the possible loss of a parent daily, just like kids of first responders.

Experts at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have developed a fact sheet on talking to children about traumatic events with age specific suggestions:

Ages toddler to 5:

  • Focus on your child, not the trauma of the event
  • Get down to their eye level to talk gently
  • Let them know they are safe

Ages 6 to 19:

  • Ask what worries them and how you can help them cope
  • Offer comfort, be present for them
  • Spend more time together, but get back to daily routines
  • Suggest quiet times to write or do artwork

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury has a resource guide for military service members. It focuses on deployments but offers ideas on how to talk to kids about their fears.

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