How to Help Children Respond to Tragedy
By Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
How do I help my children process tragic news? It seems there is always so much TV and newspaper coverage of terrible events locally and worldwide. No matter how hard you try to shield your kids from seeing these catastrophic images, it's hard to do because it seems they're everywhere.
Good question and one I think every parent worries about. However, I’m going to start with a bit of a push-back question. If you’re talking about preschoolers, why aren’t you able to shield them from most of these catastrophic images? I think most of what you’re talking about as far as your kids seeing tragic images is what they’re viewing on television. I believe you must be more diligent about having the TV under close scrutiny when your preschoolers are viewing it.
Kids should have a pretty tight limit of daily television, or video (depending on the age, somewhere around an hour maximum in a day). And the TV should only be on for kids’ programs that are engaging and positive. If that’s not what’s on the TV, you need to have the television turned off. If you’re afraid of missing a program, invest the money in a DVR (digital video recorder) and record your shows to watch after your kids are in bed, or taking a nap or playing in a structured setting. There’s just no good way to explain away some things on TV to a very little person.
Always remember: the power is in the connection with you. If you connect with them, that should be bigger than whatever they saw, and their anxiety should go away. If not, then you may have an anxious child, and that’s a different problem. Love your kids, and then pray with them for the people they saw injured on the TV or in the newspaper. If they saw an accident, say, “Let's ask God to help them feel better.”
The bottom line is: you need to be diligent about protecting what your kids are watching on the TV. And then when that’s impossible, normalize the event your children are seeing so they understand sometimes accidents happen or people are mean, but everything is still OK in their world.
Full article originally appeared in the March/April 2008 issue of MomSense magazine.