Guidelines for Helping Children Cope With Publicized Disasters
Adults need to be aware that children will need information from their parents about highly publicized disasters and tragedies, even when the occurrence is far away and doesn’t directly affect the child and his or her family.
Depending on the child’s age, parents should limit the child’s exposure to media coverage of the event. Graphic images can be very disturbing to children, and very young children don’t understand that the event is not still happening.
Recognize that children will react differently, ranging from being unaffected by the event, to having significant reactions including fears about their own safety.
Children who have had significant losses may have stronger reactions, particularly if their losses involved violence or trauma. Offer reassurance about children’s safety, emphasizing that these incidents are rare. Talk about safety measures and community helpers.
Be aware that reactions may surface over time; a child who seemed unaffected may need more information and reassurance later.
When you talk with your child, share your own feelings and reactions in a reasonable, rational manner. It is healthy to model normal feelings of grief and shock, but children also need to feel that adults are in control.
It’s important to talk with your child, but also listen to your child to find out what he or she understands and feels about the incident.
Be open to temporary changes that may help the child regain their sense of safety. For example, children may need extra reassurance at bedtime.
Talk with your child about how problems can be resolved in non-violent ways.
Take action in constructive ways to offer comfort to those in need.