Talking to Children About Today's Tragic Events

Northwestern Medicine
Psychiatry and Psychology December 14, 2012
Our hearts are heavy as we mourn today’s tragic events and our thoughts are with the community of Newtown, Conn. An event of this magnitude affects us all, but can be particularly challenging for children to comprehend. As parents address this tragedy with their children, child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Jason Washburn recommends the following approach.

Talk to your children about the event. Understand their thoughts and feelings about the event, and make sure that you understand if they have any concerns.  Ask them open ended questions such as, “So what do you think about what happened?” or “How are you feeling about what happened.”  If they don’t immediately open up, share some of your thoughts or feelings as a way to start a conversation.  Avoid starting the conversation with pointed or leading questions, such as “Are you upset?” or “Are you feeling okay?”  Try to talk to your child at a time when you can devote your full attention and you can pay attention while they are communicating, both verbally and non-verbally. Avoid discussions before bedtime.
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