Coping with frightening events
How do I talk to my child about a frightening event?
No matter how old your child is, she will want to know:
- What does this mean to me?
- How will I be affected?
- Will my family and I be safe?
It’s important that you talk with your child in an age-appropriate manner. All conversations about such serious topics should happen in a quiet place without distractions. Here are some suggestions on how to talk with your child about a frightening event.
If your child is 8 or younger:
- Keep the information as simple as possible. Safety is your child’s only concern, not the details of the event.
- Offer repetitive reassurances that you are doing everything possible to keep her safe.
- Maintain dependable routines.
- Spend extra time with your child.
- Limit her exposure to the media.
If your child is between the ages of 8 and 12:
- In addition to the above suggestions, you can some added details about the event. If the discussion is about war, explain the reason for the conflict and your view of it.
If your child is older than 12:
- Begin by asking what she knows about the situation and then explain the pieces she is missing or has wrong.
- Expect discussions of details, right vs. wrong, future implications and other broad questions.
- Offer reassurance about her safety even if she doesn’t ask for it directly.
- Listen respectfully, even if she expresses opinions different than your own.
What are the symptoms of a child coping with a frightening event?
Your child may develop some temporary symptoms of stress. As long as these are short-lived, they aren’t signs of more serious problems. Should these symptoms persist, you should consider speaking with her primary care provider or a mental health professional.
Symptoms may include:
- trouble separating (bedtime and school)
- trouble with schoolwork
Is it okay for children to “play” war?
In addition to talking, your younger child may find it comforting to act out an event. Playing out war scenes can give your child a sense of power over her environment. The play can be supplemented by conversation at the appropriate time.
What can I do to help?
When a tragedy occurs, sometimes you and your child feel helpless. Some suggestions for alleviating that feeling are working as a family to:
- give donations to disaster relief organizations
- donate blood to the American Red Cross or local hospitals
- participate in religious services or memorial observances
- organize a clothing or food drive
- •return to your normal routine as soon as possible
Helping your child with medical experiences
If it has been recommended or you have decided that your child is in need of a significant medical procedure or hospitalization, this guide is for you. It was created with the help of parents and professionals to help prepare you for what will happen during your child’s hospitalization, and to give you information about specific ways to help you and your child cope with medical procedures and with the hospital stay.