Dealing with Tragedy

For Parents:  
Helping Your Teen Handle a Tragic Event


When tragic events are reported in the media, sometimes as adults we assume that our children do not know, understand, or even care about what is being reported. Nevertheless, children understand one thing their parents are worried and upset. Whether it is when we are watching the news or talking about the tragic event with others, children have a very keen sense that something bad is going on from our facial expressions and tone of voice.

So how do we help ease the stress of our children, and make them feel safe no matter where they are?

Here are a few helpful hints to enable both you and particularly your child to deal with tragic events:

  • Keep the television off, especially when the children are around. If you feel that you must stay informed, please limit how much your child sees of the news event.

  • Stay physically close to your child giving them extra comfort such as hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort can go a long way towards providing security.

  • Keep to your regular routine. Children depend on familiar patterns of everyday life.

  • Do something that is special such as a picnic, taking a trip, going outside to play at the park, or something very silly. By doing this you are reassuring your children that they are safe in the community they live.

  • Focus on the people who are helping (helpers, police, firefighters, doctors, etc.) and not on the tragedy. It is reassuring to know there are many caring people who are doing all they can to help.

  • If your children ask questions about the event, begin by asking them, "What do you think happened?" You'll find out how much your children understand and be able to give an appropriate answer. Avoid giving too much information that can scare them even more.  

  • If you have concerns about your child's reaction to the tragic events, please contact your child's school guidance counselor so that we can work together to help your child understand and cope with these events.