Tips to Help Your Kids Through Tragedy

Posted on October 29, 2018

It is with deep sadness that we are re-posting these tips today. With the horrible shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, we wanted to make sure that you had the tools at your disposal to have these hard conversations with your kids. Hopefully, these tips can be a guide in discussing this tragedy within your family.

Begin a Mindful, Open Discussion: Let kids know that, unfortunately, bad incidents do happen. Find out what your child knows about the event; his or her perception of what has happened may be very different from reality. This article at Today.com gives an age-by-age guide on how to talk to your children about these tragedies. 

Don’t hesitate to admit that you don’t have all of the answers. If your child asks a question and you don’t know the answer, the simplest reply might be something like, “I’m sad about the news, and I’m worried just like you are. I love you, and I’m here for you.”

Encourage Your Family to Express Their Feelings: You can complete a Dealing with the Feeling (Spot it, say it, okay it) exercise to open up dialogue. Younger children may not be able to express their feelings about “violence,” but they can discuss how they feel when a classmate is mean to them, and you can get at that with open-ended questions. Share how you feel about shootings so that your children know that what they are feeling is normal. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions (crying, sadness, shock) as well.

Discuss Mindfulness With Your Children: Mindless events like shootings are caused when we do not understand what our inner world looks like. They come from a complete disconnection from oneself and our innate human values of goodness and oneness. Make sure to help your kids develop problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills and to avoid (and report) bullying and other negative communication with peers.

Make Sure Your Kids Feel Safe and Secure: Our children are looking to us for safety. Avoid information overload by limiting their exposure to the disturbing content that they may see on TV or the internet. Also be mindful of conversations that you may be having with other adults when the kids are in earshot.

Make your kids aware of the fact that shootings are not common, and stress that schools and places of worship are safe spaces. You may even want to discuss safety procedures to make sure that your child understands what to do in certain situations.

Raise the Level of Self-Awareness and Connection: There are many ways for both adults and children to relieve stress and anxiety. Stick with your normal routine, and do not become fixated on news and updates about the tragedy, which can cause you stress that your children will notice. Teach your children meditation or breathing exercises that they can use if they are feeling overwhelmed.

Be mindful of their body language and cues. Every child will respond to trauma differently. If you feel that something is bothering them, always ask. After a few days, signs of anxiety (excessive worrying, refusing to go to school, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches, or stomachaches) might suggest that a child needs more assistance in dealing with their feelings.

Reach Out and Offer Your Help: When something so massively damaging happens, human compassion increases tenfold. Teach your children that healing is best expressed through acts of connection, kindness, and compassion. Let your child know that when bad things happen, the world is full of good people who want to help. You can ask your kids for ideas on how they may be able to help the survivors. From fundraising and collecting donations to sending a handwritten note to show support and love, there are many ways that your child can show compassion.

For more tips and to further the discussion, follow us on Facebook.