Child Behavior Experts: Frank Discussion Of Tragedies Important

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email
Experts say it is nearly impossible for parents to completely shield their children from learning of events like Monday

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Tragedies like Monday's terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon are hard enough for adults to cope with emotionally, but they can be even more confusing for children.

Events like the bombing, the manhunt and shootout with the bombing suspects early Friday or the catastrophic explosion Wednesday at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant may have children asking questions about their safety and parents wanting to shield their children from the stories.

Experts in child behavior say it is nearly impossible to completely prevent children from knowing about the events.

"It's really difficult for children not to have seen something go by on TV; not to have heard something at school," said Dr. Rita Goss, a Wichita psychologist.

So, Goss said, it is best for parents to frankly discuss the events with children.

"It's really important to be fairly short," she said. "You don't need to tell them all of the grubby details."

However, what details children learn about, they need to learn from parents, said Melinda Kline of the Kansas Children's Service League.

"Parents want to be the ones to educate their children on this," Kline said. "Not to leave it up to the other children at school or even teachers."

Part of easing the fears of children includes adults making sure they are not making themselves too anxious while trying to remain informed. That means stepping away from the constant coverage from time to time, Goss said.

"It's easy as a parent -- because you want your child's life to be perfectly safe -- to get rather obsessive-compulsive about it and want to just hang on the news," she said.

Maintaining their routine also goes a long way toward helping children cope with any traumatic event, Goss said.

"If they've got birthday parties, if they've got sporting events, if Friday night is pizza night at their house, keep routine," she said.

Kline said it is important for adults to show children the positive spots amid tragedies and crises.

"Point out things like how helpful people were in Boston," she said. "How people were giving up their coats and their food and water and helping others and just how we as humans do that."

Both Kline and Goss said maintaining routine and frank discussion with children helps adults deal with tragedies.

"Just telling them, 'This is how we keep safe and this is whose helping us keep safe,' will remind us," Goss said.

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