As parents, when hard news arrives at the doorstep, we have two immediate responsibilities. First, we have to process, try to make sense of, and comfort ourselves. Second, we need to help our children do the same. If you are wondering how to do this, here are some strategies I find helpful.
Share in a simple, age appropriate way
We might wish we could keep the information from our children or soften it. With children under 5, this might be possible. Once children are older, they will find out. Be the first source, tell them the simple story, let their questions guide how many details you need to share, and share with them how you are processing it. You might name the emotions that you have and share positive strategies you are using to comfort yourself.
Look for the good
Keep news broadcasts to a minimum and look for the heroes. The news will often focus its lens very closely on a tragedy and make it seem as if the devastating event is the only thing going on, meanwhile missing many positive, selfless, generous stories surrounding it. Fred Rogers used to share that his mother told him to look for the heroes in any tragedy and to find the good going on. Someone is always there to be found. One news source I often appreciate during difficult times is the CS Monitor. Another news source is Tank’s good news. Finding coverage of the events and communities that come together to help support and build positive action is encouraging.
Be present, build positive belonging and listen
Help to make your home a safe place to talk. Turn off the screens and be together. Focus on building connections and enjoying each other. Together, plan fun things you will do over the coming week. Play cards, take walks, cook together and clean up meals side by side. Simply be present, available and quiet. Listen.
In conclusion, surround yourself and your children with friendship and support. Here are a few helpful articles on how to help our families during tragedies:
How to talk with children about difficult news
Managing your distress in the aftermath of a mass shooting
Talking with kids about the scary news
Please reach out and share your ideas, strategies and concerns.