Helping Kids Deal with Scary Times

The recent attack in Brussels is another reminder that we live in scary, uncertain times.  It's hard enough to deal with these times as an adult much less as a child.

We wish we could totally shelter children from the pain and tragedy of the world we live in, but that's not possible. 

Friends and family members pass away, disturbing events occur, sickness comes, natural disasters happen and acts of terrorism are committed.

This is the broken world in which we live.  And how we help kids process these things makes a difference.  Here's some tips to help kids deal with scary times.

Share the news.  When something happens that will get major news coverage, don't delay in telling your children what has happened.  You want your child to hear it from you.  He or she will receive it much better if it comes from you.  This also allows you to convey the facts and set the emotional tone for how the news is given.  You should also be developmentally appropriate when sharing.  Don’t volunteer too much information if the child is younger.

Let your child ask questions.  Invite your child to ask questions about what has happened.  Be prepared to answer questions about anything that upsets your child.

Stay calm.  It's okay to let your child know you are sad about what has happened...but don't freak out.  If you are highly emotional, your child will absorb your emotions and reflect them.  Remain calm.  Your child will pick up on this and intuitively grasp from you that even though tragic events can upset our lives, we can get through them.

Give your child assurance.  When children hear about things like acts of terrorism, they are likely to wonder if this could happen to them.  It's important to reassure your child that it is an unusual event and safety measures are in place to prevent this from happening to them.  You can also assure your child that the authorities are working to prevent it from happening again.

Help your child express his or her feelings.  Children do this in different ways.  Some will talk...some will draw pictures...some will share memories...however your child wants to do so...encourage them to express how they are feeling.

Spend extra time with your child.  One of the best things you can do to help your child feel safe is spend time with him or her.

Stick with routines.  Children find comfort in routines.  Keep their routines as normal as possible. 

By taking these steps, you can help your child build healthy coping skills that will help them now and for the rest of their lives.