How to Help Children Understand Terrifying Events

As a parent, your job is to make sure your kids grow and develop in a safe and healthy environment. To do this, you may need to help children understand terrifying events or situations. While it may be possible for you to control your immediate environment, your home, it’s simply not possible to ensure the greater world around your child is safe and free from trauma or natural disasters , civil unrest or Covid-19.

The latest research points to the utter futility of trying to keep kids shielded from any form of violence. According to Caroline Knorr, parenting editor for Common Sense Media, the online resource for vetting kids media, “Ninety percent of movies, 68% of video games, and 60% of TV shows show some depictions of violence.”

The effects of violence and interactive screens on the brains of developing children is becoming more and more evident, but this is only part of the stress our children are under.

Controlling what kind and how much media our children consume is far easier, however, than shielding them from real-world violence and devastation, but we can and should help children understand terrifying events.

No child should have to learn about a school shooting, terrorist attack, or the fact that adults and children were killed in an earthquake somewhere in the world. But shielding them from hard truths of these tragedies could make the situation worse.

The reality is that parents have to be honest with their children on the appropriate developmental level that meets their needs. Children will hear about terrifying events from a source outside of your family. Additionally, it could scare your child more if you are reluctant to speak what big issues circling their little worlds.

Here are some ways you can help your child understand terrifying events:

Try to Stay Calm:

Children not only listen to the words you tell them, but also look for your emotional reaction. This helps them gauge what is actually going on and helps them develop coping skills.

Though it may be difficult, it’s important that you try and remain as calm as possible and to reassure your child. At the same time, let your youngsters know that it is okay for them to feel upset. A delicate balance? You could say that.

Determine What Your Child is Really Worried About:

When children hear about scary events, they will have many questions, such as, “Did people die? Why would somebody hurt people? Were they bad people? Will I be killed by a bad person? Are we going to war?”

Some children will ask many more questions than this, but what they are really trying to determine is if THEY are safe. The answers you give should be truthful but age-appropriate, with a final assurance that your family is safe.

Keep Your Daily Routines:

Scary stuff is unpredictable. Therefore, your child will be reassured by predictability. Stick to your routines as best you can. Along with talking to your children about the events, make sure they have a sense of regularity in their lives.

Seek Professional Help if Necessary:

If your child continues to show signs of stress or agitation, it might be a good idea to talk with a licensed mental health professional who can help your child express their concerns and offer coping strategies. Family therapy can be particularly helpful in this situation.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a traumatic event and would like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Contact Abby:Smiling, Caucasian, female therapist in a blue top sitting at a wooden dining table help children understand terrifying events.

Therapy can help you teach young children mindfulness and it can help parents too. If you would like more peace in the storm of life, I am here to help.

Call (626) 755-4059 for a FREE, 20-minute phone consultation. Let's co-create a plan of healing for your family.