Talking to Your Children About Tragedies in the Age of the Internet

Soraya Coffelt Talking to Children about Tragedies

With growing numbers of online news outlets as well as constant chatter on social media, there has never been a time when tragedies have been displayed so vividly and frequently at the rate they are now.   There is a virtually unlimited amount of information available to everyone, young and old, on the internet.  As a result, children can see and hear about atrocities before they are mature enough to be able to emotionally and intellectually process them.   This forces parents to have difficult conversations with them far earlier than they had anticipated.  What can parents do?

Initially, you as a parent, must recognize that your children can have easy access to graphic details about mass killings, earthquakes, food and refugee crises, and so much more.  Be prepared to address these situations, because more and more tragedies are happening and at greater frequency.  Do not bury your head in the sand and believe that your children will not hear about them.

When discussing a specific situation, the best approach is to be honest, but that does not mean that you have to reveal or talk about every detail.  You alone are the judge as to how much information to share with your children, based on what you know is their maturity level.  Children are not ready for all the grisly details that come with widespread disasters, so giving them a vague recap should be enough to satisfy their curiosity.  Allowing them to ask questions is very important because they may have heard incorrect information from their peers or others.  Answer their questions in the most age appropriate language possible.  As they grow older, you can start expanding on some of the information you share with them. 

Importantly, remember that, no matter how much the sad news may be weighing on you, you should not  display extreme distress.  Your children are observing you as the person who is supposed to be their rock and provider.  Showing composure in expressing information about an event will build composure in your children.  Avoid frightening them.  Reassure them that they will never be left alone or be away from their family.

As a Christian parent, you can remind your children that they will be safe and secure, as they are continuously protected by God.  Reinforce God’s love and peace in the midst of a storm.   Pray with them for victims and about solutions to difficult issues.

Having sorrow for the tragedies of this world shows we are compassionate and loving people.  As adults, these tragedies are often difficult to comprehend.  Be proactive in conveying appropriate information to your children at their age levels.