How to Help Your Child Cope with National Tragedies

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Diane Lockard spent over 20 years counseling children in the school system.

She is now in private practice and in the wake of recent tragedies, she has been getting phone calls from parents and questions from her own young family members on how to cope.

“I know that my grandson – he is 12 and he’s talked about it. He can’t seem to understand why somebody would do that,” Lockard said.

Lockard said when it comes to talking to kids about tough situations, you must first recognize and handle your own emotions as a parent.

“Because if a parent is not in control of themselves, they are not going to help their child at all,” Lockard said.

She said pay very close attention to your child’s reaction and behavior. 

Then, encourage communication, listen to their thoughts and emotions about the situation.

“I think that it’s just fine to give your child very simple answers that they can process,” Brandon Arnold, a licenced professional counselor said.

Lockard said it it important to remind them the steps your family takes to keep them safe and always highlight all of the things they have to be thankful for.

“But the most important thing is look for positives. Talk about love and tolerance. Tolerance for people’s differences. Try not to be judgemental about others like: ‘Oh that person we expect them to do this. You need to be afraid of that person,'” Lockard said.

Professionals said art can really help your children express their emotions.

“You put things in front of them, but you don’t tell them what they need to draw. You don’t tell them anything like that and whatever they show you…. you know it could be…. it’s not uncommon when kids hear about death to draw what they think dead people look like. Or, you know, if your daughter draws princesses all of the time, she might draw a dead princess, but you can’t have an ‘ew’ kind of reaction to that,” Arnold said.

Arnold said you should discuss what your kids draw and why.

Both counselors said in the end, it is really important your children know — it is okay to feel sadness…. when tragedy strikes.

As far as whether or not to censor the content your child may see, professionals said use your own judgement as a parent — based on their level of awareness.
 

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