Parenting Tip: How to respond with your child when a Tragic Event Happens
Perhaps a parent as well as a child experience different feelings about the severity of a scenario. Some parents may respond more forcefully and rightfully and others may react more calmly and seemingly unemotionally with their child. It is never advisable to discourage your child from having a strong opinion on a topic, but it is also important for you to have different reactions to the same situation.
In specific, speaking to a young child about a shocking story or event is important to help them better understand what has happened, while at the same time comforting them. Contrary to conventional wisdom, young children do not always hate things that are traumatic to adults, such as the death of a loved one or the potential death of a loved one. One source for this claim is professor Ramanathan, who states that the child “might think about something so awful that it is appropriate for the adults in their lives to know about it.” (Bennett, 2003, p.168)
Responding appropriately, in ways that comfort and calm a child, can serve as effective methods of helping a young child process a difficult situation.
Beware of Following Common Consensus
Making sure to consult a psychotherapist or another trained professional to discuss your thoughts and feelings with your child can also be important to help you understand your child’s emotional reaction to a situation before making a decision about what you think is appropriate. If your child or teen starts to ask questions, and you feel that you may not have the right answers, you can decline to answer the question and let your child come to you with questions as they become more comfortable with the subject. It is also important to check in with your child if there is a point where you feel as though your tone is too aggressive, and try to alleviate your anger toward them.
Make Things Cursory
Don’t be afraid to drop in a few colorfully or related questions when you begin to talk with your child. If they end up uncomfortable at the start, that could be more than a normal reaction for a child to have to the story you’re presenting. If they do proceed to ask more questions, be careful not to give in to explaining things to them at length. Instead, be as concise as possible with your responses and let them figure out what they need to know based on how they respond. By explaining things in a simple manner, it is almost inevitable that some children will grasp information quicker, while some children may need some more time to grasp it.
The main takeaway from this tip is to communicate with your child in a very informal, casual way, which can seem awkward at times. Communicating with a child this way may result in an understanding that what you are trying to say may be very difficult for a child to understand for a variety of reasons. Your goal should be to help your child come to you with questions when their instinct is telling them something is important.
Parenting Tip From MindShift, Inc.
Words of encouragement, even if they are couched in a pointed, memorable phrase, help a child learn coping mechanisms for challenging situations and help them move on with their lives. Read more parenting tip from MindShift, Inc.