There are scary and violent events happening in the world which can affect our children. How parents respond to their child’s questions should depend on the age and stage of development of the child. For a young child, parents can control the media their family sees and hears. A young child can be shielded from harsh realities until they develop cognitively with logic and abstract reasoning skills. They may ask you about scary things they heard, and wonder if their family will be okay and safe. You can reply that it is your job to protect them. A young child’s anxiety can be lessened by a parent’s consistent show of warmth and affection, support, and reassurance.
Hearing about challenging and stressful happenings can help a school-age child develop coping strategies, especially when that child has a trust-filled relationship with a parent or other caregiver. The child’s reaction is related to how well the adult is coping, as that adult is a role model. As with younger children, showing affection by hugging, providing a safe and secure home environment, and maintaining routines each day are helpful. When the child asks about what they have heard or seen, a parent should express empathy and concern. Provide basic information and try to avoid graphic details. It’s important to listen and observe your child, and offer reassurance that you are committed to their welfare.
With tweens and teens, hearing about terrifying world conflicts can evoke worry or simply curiosity. Many times, this age group obtains information from social media and other online outlets. Parents can ask what their tween has heard and then correct any inaccuracies. Try to maintain a calm voice and show your teen reputable sources for information. You can refer to the Common Sense Media website for excellent resources. It’s important to accept your child’s concern and not be dismissive. Affirm their feelings (such as being sad), and ask what they think your family can do to help displaced people who are struggling. There are many ways to volunteer in the community for the greater cause. Taking positive action helps older children regulate their feelings instead of feeling helpless and/or hopeless. Acting for the positive good builds strong family bonds and increases a family’s sense of well-being.