Talking with Children about Tragedy

Adult's Role: Try to be calm, reassuring, and focused for the children. Parents and guardians need to get the support they need from other adults so they are able to effectively guide the children. Talk about family and community values, communication, and treating each other in a caring way.

Talk and Listen: Find out what the children's fears and concerns are and address them as directly and calmly as possible. Reassure them that you, extended family members, and other adults are here to help and protect. Give children time to talk, follow their lead - when they are ready to return to their regular routine, let them. If they have further concerns, they will probably come back to talk. Let them know they can talk at any time.

Create a Safe Home Environment: Turn off the TV. Constant images, strong emotions, and reports of the shooting are not helpful at this time. If you need to watch the news, do so after the children have gone to bed. If teenage children want to watch the news, make sure that you are with them to help process the information and images.

Keep to bedtime routine. A good antidote to stress is sleep. Children need reassurance at bedtime. Read to them, keep family faith traditions, and allow nightlights and hall lights to stay on. Some children may want extra assurance. Lying down with children, especially young ones, or sitting in a youth's room until they fall asleep may be helpful.

Use Your Resources: Community resources are available to you and your families to help you talk to children include counselors, members of the faith community, public health and sexual assault and domestic abuse programs.

Start the Discussion: Here are some remarks that might help you start a discussion with your children about today's events. Use whatever is comfortable for you.

"What has happened today is horrifying, and our hearts and brains are having a hard time taking it all in. What we know at this point is: (give facts, as you know them.)"

"When scary things happen, it is important to take a big breath or whatever it is you do to help calm down. Pay attention to the facts. Be careful not to spread rumors."

Be careful to avoid dramatizing the drama - try to calm yourself and others instead of fanning the excitement.

"It is still important for you and me to be able to express our feelings and share our thoughts and concerns. Do you want to talk about what has happened? We can talk whenever you want."


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota Phone: (320) 253-1616
203 Cooper Ave N, Suite 162, Saint Cloud, MN 56303 Toll Free: 1-888-600-1616