As adults, we’re bombarded with media stories that are difficult to digest. On a daily basis, lately, it seems as if guns, terrorism, and political warfare are making headlines. While we worry about these issues, our young children shouldn’t be concerned about them at this early of an age. How do we answer the questions that inevitably are raised by a child who has overheard adult talk or has seen an image on TV?
Let your child bring it up; not the other way around. Once a child is older, for example, between the ages of 8 and 10, she’ll begin to be able to understand news events with a bit of perspective. She’ll understand that many of the events, though not all, are far from home. She’ll know that while they may make headlines daily, they are unlikely to happen to her. But younger children will have a harder time understanding current events without becoming worried about them happening to them in the near future. Unless your child brings up a story she has heard, it’s best to leave talk of upsetting current events for an older age.
Make sure to ask questions first. Find out what your child already knows. He may come to you, asking about Orlando, but he may not even know that violence was involved. He may have simply overheard an adult or an older child mentioning a problem in a nearby city. If he doesn’t have a lot of information, you can simply explain that some people were hurt, and it’s sad, but everyone he loves is safe. An understated version of the story is wise at an age when a scary story can allow a child to catastrophize.
Simplify your language. We never want to lie to our children, but a 3-year-old really shouldn’t know the nitty gritty details of a disturbing situation. At this age, it’s difficult for kids to understand that just because a bad thing happened in the world, that doesn’t mean that it will happen to them. Explain that bad things happen in the world sometimes, but they will most likely not happen to your child or anyone he loves. This is grossly simplifying the reality of terrorism and gun violence, but it is a way of letting your child know that you understand what he is concerned about, and that you have confidence that everything will be OK.
Have your children witnessed any of the images in the aftermath of the Orlando attack? Are they overhearing discussion of those events? Were you able to make some sense of what they heard, while assuaging their fears? Let us know in the comments section.