This summer we, as a nation and as a community, have experienced a significant number of tragic and sometimes overwhelming events. From natural disasters, to violence, and even an agitated political climate, tensions have been running high for some time. These issues are complicated and difficult for adults to discuss, so how can you help your children understand and cope with them? Here are some parenting tips on how to best support your child in the midst of national tragedy.
Encourage Them to Ask Questions
Most likely your child has some very basic questions and fears. For instance, when a hurricane is coming your child likely wonders about his or her safety and the safety of your family, your home, and your pets. Encourage your children to ask questions and state aloud their fears so you can acknowledge what they’re feeling and soothe their anxieties.
Develop a Plan
Come up with an plan to ensure that everyone in your family knows what to do in case of an emergency. This is important for practical reasons, but will also give you and your children a sense of control when the next big storm hits, or the next violent event occurs. These plans will differ based on the issue at hand. Planning for a hurricane involves boarding up your house and buying supplies. Planning for other events may look more like family dinner around the table, giving thanks for the blessing of our safety, and saying prayers for victims.
Limit Exposure to News Media
It is very easy to get caught in a running loop of endless new media, and while your small child may not appear to be paying attention they may pick up on key words and tone of voice. If possible, limit your children's exposure to the news by watching it after their bedtime. Of all our parenting tips, this one may also curb mom and dad's anxiety.
Find Ways to Actively Support Victims
Understandably you and your children may feel a sense of helplessness as you see tragedies taking place in communities across the country. Consider initiating a family project to support victims. For example, your children might donate some of their allowance money to organizations that provide aid in Puerto Rico, or perhaps they’d like to share their toys or clothing with children who lost their homes in Houston, TX. Giving to people who are suffering can relieve the feeling of powerlessness that you and your children may feel.
Your children are sensitive to the emotional tensions around them. On especially stressful days they may act out more than usual, or seem unusually emotional. Our most valuable parenting tip is that you be patient as they learn to process their feelings.
The natural disasters and human tragedies we’ve experienced in the last few months can be stressful and overwhelming to your children. Often, they are hearing and learning more about these things than you realize. It’s important to stay aware of your children's feelings so you can help them develop appropriate coping mechanisms. And, at the end of the day, even the best parenting tips are poor substitutes for what your children need most: your love and compassion.