There has been a lot of disturbing news information and images recently, concerning a number of tragedies. Whether it is a natural disaster or terrorist/deranged citizen attack, we at Westchester Health want parents to know that we think it’s very important 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. Very good guidance about how to do this is offered in a recent blog by Mason Gomberg, MD, a pediatrician in our Westchester Health Pediatrics group.
It is important to be honest with your child when discussing a disturbing recent event
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.
If your younger child gets scared by news coverage of an upsetting event, try to shield them from graphic details
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.
For older children who have access to more information, 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 help with these difficult topics, all of us 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 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.
To read Dr. Gomberg’s blog in full, click here.