Bad, scary, or negative news can be traumatic for children of all ages. “Bad” news can be anything, from natural disasters to local or global political strife, mass shootings, the fallout from the drug epidemic, or even a fire in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, there have been too many stories involving violence against children in the headlines recently. These types of news stories can be scary and profoundly impact your children. Therefore, it is essential for parents to be prepared to talk with their children about things they may see and hear on the news. 

Encourage Open Conversation 

It is critically important to encourage open conversations between yourself and your children. This should be maintained on all topics, which can make addressing these bigger topics easier. Let their curiosity and concerns guide the conversation and your responses. They may have questions about what they see and hear-starting with “Why?”. Assure them that they are heard and answer their questions the best you can. And it’s ok if you must use your strength of Honesty sometimes and let them know you just don’t have an answer. 

Start by asking them what they’ve heard or know about the story. Try and keep responses fact-based and use trusted, reliable sources for information. Provide age-appropriate responses directly and in small, easy-to-digest chunks of information. After opening the dialogue, give yourself and your children time to process what they’ve heard and then stop and listen. Always reassure your child that you’re available and there for them. You’re there to help keep them safe. 

Validate And Normalize Their Feelings And Concerns

It is important to let your child know that you hear them, that their feelings are real, and that their concerns are valid. Let them know it’s ok to be concerned, afraid, and, importantly, empathetic to the victims of the tragedy. Let them know you are also concerned but that you are there for them. Emphasize that important adults always work hard to keep kids safe and secure. Encourage them to look for the “helpers” in the news stories and make sure they have a plan if something bad is happening around them. Try some mindfulness practices to help them remain calm. 

Natural Strength Parenting™ Tip: If you have a particularly anxious child, there are proven, effective strategies you can use now, or anytime, to help keep them calm. Learn more.

Empower Action Together With Your Child

What actions can you take with your child to make a difference? How can you help make your community safer? For children of all ages, make sure they have a plan to stay safe if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. For younger children, encourage them to look for those “helpers”, teachers, coaches, firefighters, and other adults they know and trust for assistance and direction. For older children, make sure they have their phones with them, charged, and with emergency contacts loaded and accessible. For teens or much older children, discuss systemic change, advocacy, voting, and other more adult ways to approach these complex topics. 

Encourage discussion by asking questions like “What do you think we should do to help keep kids safe?”, “Who are adults you can go to if you need help?”, “What makes you feel comfortable and safe?” “What can we do at home for you to feel safer?” 

Encourage your children to use their strength of Creativity to express themselves. This can be through talking, playing, writing, music, dance, art, and other activities. 

Monitor For The Need For Longer-term Support

Keep an eye on your children after they hear about a tragedy in the news. Keep those lines of communication open and look for longer-term ill effects as they continue to digest the news.

Try to maintain your family’s regular routine as much as possible (meals, sleep, and activities). If your child cannot return to their normal routine after a period of time, this may indicate that your family needs more support. It’s not unusual for kids to go back to more childlike behaviors when they find out about distressing events. This will get better with reassurance that the child is safe and with time. If your child has a very intense reaction or you have concerns about their behavior or emotions, reach out to their pediatrician or consider connecting with a mental health professional in their school or the community. 

Bad, scary, or tragic news is an unfortunate part of our world. And it is important that you are ready to intercede with your child once they hear bad news. Letting them know they are safe and loved can help them digest difficult news and move forward. 

Need more support? Connect with one of our Parenting Specialists today!