Everyday, families in our communities face unemployment, traffic accidents, and crime. These events can be very scary and upsetting for children. Even though such events may be common, these “everyday crises” are very stressful. Don’t let your child watch repeated images of these situations or other violent or sad events on TV. Give an event some context—that is, explain what you know about the situation in your own words and from your point of view. Remember to be calm and talk at the child’s level. Tell your child only as much as you think she can really understand. Short answers may be better.
Try to answer your child’s questions truthfully, but in words she knows and understands. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”
If you need some help figuring out what to say to your child, or how to talk to her about a crisis in words she can understand, ask a health care provider, school counselor, or mental health professional, or check out the Just for Parents section of this book for other resources. The section also gives some tips on how to help your child handle a major crisis.
It’s hard for adults to deal with some of the things they see on TV and in magazines and newspapers, especially things that are painful or violent. It’s even harder for children to understand what they’re seeing. These activities will help your child to:
This activity reminds your child that it’s OK just to be a child. It gives you a way to tell your child that you don’t expect her to act like an adult, or to handle things that adults do.
In hard times, many children think that the event is their fault—that it happened because of something they did wrong or because of something they didn’t do. Your child may want to save you and your family from danger or harm. But, she can’t keep things from happening to her family. Her main job is just growing up. The poem tells her that she’s not supposed to take care of everybody; she just has to be herself.
You can help your child come up with the different ways she can help by brainstorming— writing down all the words that come to mind about a certain topic. Brainstorm helpful actions with your child and write down all the words you think of to describe these actions. Then, have your child use one or more of those words in making her picture of the future.
Through this activity, your child can learn that, even in every day events, she can still do things to help, no matter how young or old she is. Knowing that she is not helpless can give your child hope during troubled times. Talk to your child about the kinds of things children can do to help others. Make sure to point out the things that are better for adults to do.
Some older children may pick out pictures or images that are very violent or graphic. These images could be scary for younger children who are also doing the activity. You may want to do this activity with one child at a time, so that you can talk about topics that each child thinks are important, using words and pictures that are appropriate for his or her age.
This is a good activity for older children. Your thoughts and feelings can make a difference in what your child thinks and feels. Even though many children say they don’t want help from their parents, they really do need your help and guidance. If your child knows what you believe in, she’ll know her reactions and feelings are OK. For example, if your child hears you talking about an event, like a war or a new law, she’ll feel better about forming her own opinions about the event. Your child will learn how you think and feel about important things by listening to you talk, which can help her to make her own opinions.
Sharing your values and beliefs helps your child learn about the world around her. Respecting the values and opinions of others is also important. Make sure your child knows that even if someone feels differently than you do about something, they still have the right to their opinions and beliefs. You may want to point out why you disagree or how your beliefs are different. But, be sure that your child knows that having an opinion is OK, even if it’s a different opinion.