Talking about tragedy: what parents need to know

Public safety officers gather at crime scene in Kalamazoo - February 20, 2016.
Public safety officers gather at crime scene in Kalamazoo - February 20, 2016.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) The West Michigan community is left reeling after the shootings in Kalamazoo on February 20. When tragic events happen, adults want to be informed and know what’s going on, but that information also reaches little ears. It can be difficult to talk to children about violence and know what to do to keep children safe.

Jason Lheureux from Wedgwood Christian Services and Thomas Pierce of the Hope Network say parents need to walk their kids through tragic times. They say there are some key things parents need to keep in mind:

  • Always validate your child’s feelings. Let them know you understand what they’re feeling, then talk to them about it in a way that’s appropriate for their developmental age.
  • Assume if it’s impacting you, it’s also impacting your children. Observe and be sensitive to how they’re acting and reacting, especially if their behavior changes. Ask them how they’re doing, then listen to their answer.
  • Reassure children they are safe. Make sure you have conversations with them on a regular basis so they know they can talk to you about other issues.

Depending on their age, children are still learning the difference between what they see on TV and reality. 24 Hour News 8’s Marlee Ginter is the mother of an 11 year old and a 3 year old. She says as a reporter and anchor, it can be difficult to separate work and life, and her children can pick up on her emotions.

Lheureux and Pierce say parents shouldn’t avoid issues like death and violence, but rather give children small amounts of concrete information using simple terms. It’s also important to identify safety plans with your family so they know who to turn to in times of fear or anxiety.

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