What Do I Say to My Kids?
Tips on having conversations on the aftermath of a tragedy
Carlos A. Bermeo. LCSW, NBCCH – Director of JFCS Clinical Services
On the morning following the tragic and senseless shooting that took place in Vegas many parents found themselves asking the same what’s and how’s to explain to their children what happened and offer comfort and a sense of safety.
While many parents struggled to find what to say to their children, others opted to say nothing or avoided the conversation in hopes that this will shield their children. In efforts to provide some help to the parents, here are some suggestions for broaching the issue with your children, being mindful of the ability of your child to take in and comprehend information…
- With younger children (preschool and kindergarten): Let them take the lead in the conversation, make sure your child knows you are there to answer any questions. The issue does not need to be brought up unless a child hears about it first
- With older children (elementary school): Parents should be more direct. Parents should preemptively help their child know about the tragedy and share basic details and leave the door open for them to ask questions. Note that they may initially say that they are ok but that does not mean that you shouldn’t talk about it.
- With teenagers: Parents should have a more detailed conversation with children. Start by asking questions like, “Have you heard about this?” and “What do you think about this?” to find out what they know and what may be bothering them.
- Children want to know if they are safe. Talk about creating a safety plan with your child and what to do in an emergency.
- Adults should not to say everything is okay, that it happened somewhere else , and it will not happen here. This may seem like it is comforting to a child however it is not the truth. This varies for where your child is developmentally.
- Although these suggestions are for talking to your children, parents and adults cannot forget about their own care. Take time to reflect and for time for self-care. You cannot help your child cope if you yourself cannot.
If you need help talking with your children, or your child needs guidance, contact the JFCS Counseling Department at 856-424-1333.