"Talking to Children about Tragedy"

1) It's best to provide opportunities for children to talk about incidents and ask questions even many weeks after the events. You might start by saying something like, "I wonder if you've heard or seen anything on the news that you have questions about?" or "We had a lot of fires in our area, do you have any questions or thoughts?"

If you don't open up an opportunity for children to talk, they will more than likely not feel that it is safe to talk to you.

2) Physical and emotional reactions to traumatic events can happen with children and adults much after the event occurred especially if children know someone who died in the shooting or was very impacted by the fires. Jen said that studies have been done on tragic events, and children/communities seemed to be able to hold things together until about 9 months, and the 9-month mark seemed to be a tipping point.

3) It's so important to continually reassuring children that they are safe. Notice the things that others are doing to keep them safe, notice the people out doing good, and notice everything that happens every day that goes smoothly rather than dwelling on the negative or the aspects of our world that are unsafe.

4) Try to limit exposure to the media and talk very factually about the incident with limited details that are age appropriate. All the children to lead with questions and be factual in your answers.

5) Beware of catastrophizing and what your children might overhear you say! Statements like "There's no way we won't all get cancer with all the ash and smoke around!", or "we are living in a new time,  are not helpful for children to hear and will likely lead to more anxiety and fear.

6) It's better to state facts and explain reasoning: "It isn't healthy to breathe in smoky air, so we are going to stay healthy and play inside today"

7) Revisit conversations over time to check in and see if children have more questions or misinformation.

8) Do something proactive and good with your children -- volunteer, write cards, donate, etc.

Those are my main take-aways, if others who attended wish to add to the list in the comment section, that would be helpful too!

As always, we will continue supporting your children through the social emotional impact of the local events during the school day.

In partnership,

Dr. Kelly 
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