Dealing With Real-Life Monsters: How to Explain Dark and Scary News to Children
The past couple of years have been filled with news plagued of scary reports, such as mass shootings and terrorism. Never mind the fact that killings and other gory reports happen on a day-to-day basis. While parents would opt not to tell their children about these news stories, they can't always hope the little tykes won't know about them.
This proves true especially because kids find news online on their laptops and tablets. There is no shortage of scary reports that kids are better off not knowing, so when time comes that they do, parents should be able to know how to handle them.
— Children's Hosp LA (@ChildrensLA) December 15, 2015
Be honest. Parents can't shield their children from all the bad things in the world all the time, so it's best not to change the subject when these things come up. It unnecessary to tell children about every last, gory detail, but don't leave them in the dark. Their imaginations can run very wild so talk to them about it in a matter-of-fact way. The rule of thumb, according to Scholastic is that the younger the child, the less detail they can handle.
Ask questions to know how they feel. Get their understanding of what happened, but don't assume to know what they are thinking. "If they are scared, ask what they're afraid of - don't assume you know." Dr. Paul Coleman, author of "How to Say It to Your Child When Bad Things Happen" told Parenting. "They could be using twisted logic, like they see a building collapse on TV and think it's Mommy's office building. Correct any misconceptions, and then offer assurance."
Don't label the kids' feelings as wrong. Don't make them feel bad for being scared, especially if they are. Take note that follow-up questions may last for a few days, because children take a while to process information. However, if a child is still scared a few weeks later, it may be time to call a doctor. Dr. Robert Hilt, a psychiatrist from Seattle Children's Hospital noted, "Most kids process these stories just fine, so long as the people in their lives and their community are supportive."