Just last week, our community was shaken by a fatal apartment fire in Silver Spring, Md. Nurse Rose Melendez, head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital, explains how to talk to your kids about tragedy and violence in the news. Rose Melendez

How should we approach tough subjects in the news with our kids?

Nurse Rose: The most important first step is to have an open dialogue with your children and listen to their feelings and concerns. Start by asking what they know or have heard. Empathize with them and explain that it’s OK for them to ask questions.

How much should we share with our children?

Nurse Rose: What you tell your children will vary depending on their age and upon their individual level of maturity. You know your child best and what he or she can handle.

Here are some tips to help guide these conversations based on age.

  • Preschoolers: Tell them sometimes bad or scary things happen but you’ll always make sure they are as safe as possible.
  • Elementary school and older: Give them more detail about how tragic events like this happen, specific steps they can take to protect themselves and that you’ll always make sure they’re as safe as possible.
  • Teenagers: Ask if they know anyone affected by the events in the news. Listen to their thoughts and feelings without telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel.

What can we do to help kids cope with tragic or violent events?

Nurse Rose: Once you’ve opened the line of communication, it’s important to offer your children support to help them cope with their emotions and to keep tabs on how their feeling.

  • Empower your child to help, whether it’s drawing a picture or writing a letter of support with your younger kids, or becoming involved in a church or community event with older children.
  • Offer concrete reassurance by explaining what you can do to keep them safe and how to prepare for emergencies like fires or active shooter events, if age-appropriate.
  • Lighten the mood by drawing attention to positive news, praising good deeds and engaging in a fun activity instead of watching the news.

If your child becomes hopeless, cries for no reason or engages in OCD-like rituals, seek advice from your pediatrician.

Looking for a pediatrician? Find one close to home with Adventist HealthCare.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.