How To Talk To Your Children About Tragedies In The News


Recently there have been a lot of tragedies in the news. Whether it is a natural disaster or terrorist/deranged citizen attack, we at Westchester Health Pediatrics encourage parents to discuss these difficult issues with their children, when appropriate. They should, of course, consider the child’s age and developmental stage in deciding what information to share or watch on TV or the computer.

It is important to be honest with your child regarding the event

Mason Gomberg-001R WEB72

Mason Gomberg. MD

A good place to start is by asking your child what they have heard or know about the event. Focus on the basics. Ask what they understand about the event and correct any misinformation they might have. Also, address any underlying fears they may have. Answer questions truthfully and at a level they can understand without going into great detail or speculation. Parents should convey that it is ok to be bothered by this event and that they are here to support their child and make him/her as safe as possible.

Younger children can be very frightened by an event’s coverage and should avoid graphic video details of it

Parents need to reassure a younger child that they are safe. They may also need help separating fantasy from reality. Young children might become “clingy” or regress in behavior. This may include bedwetting, sucking one’s thumb and/or using baby talk. It is important at such a time to support your child and give extra hugs and kisses.

Older children will have access to much more information. Try to view and discuss the news together.

Adolescents and teenagers will have more questions and want more in-depth information and suggestions about preventing future tragedies. They may want to help in the recovery efforts. Together, your family can organize donations to victims or charity organizations.

Above all, reassure your children that they are safe

Our suggestions for helping children get through difficult times:

  • Review your family’s plans for an emergency
  • Maintain your usual routines
  • Try to keep on a regular time schedule for meals, homework and school/sports/outside activities
  • Spend extra family time together
  • Foster a sense of security and encourage your child to express his/her feelings
  • Stay as calm as possible
  • If you see signs that your child is not coping well, call your pediatrician. These include: sleep disturbances, behavioral regression, physical complaints (fatigue, headaches, abdominal pains), sadness and anxiety.

If you need any help, the doctors at Westchester Health are here for you

If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to cope with recent tragic events, or want guidance regarding how to talk to your child about difficult issues, please make an appointment with Westchester Health Pediatrics to talk with one of our pediatricians. We understand that times like these can be very difficult for children of all ages, and we want you to know that whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

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By Mason Gomberg, MD, Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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About the Author: ML Ball