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Coping with National Tragedies, & Helping Our Kids Cope

Unfortunately, this morning’s news headlines provided me with an important topic for our blog this month.  Not only the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas, but recent hurricanes, storms, and political issues create a constant stream of trauma through our televisions, internet, phones and radio.  Even though we may not be experiencing the events directly, they can still have an impact on us that is difficult to know how to process, and especially for our children and teens.


As adults, we have the choice and some ability to control how much exposure we have to news and media coverage of traumatic events.  However, it is easy to find ourselves glued to the TV or our phones without even realizing how much time we are spending watching and listening to these tragedies.  If we are not mindful of the amount of time and types of information we are taking in, it can be unhealthy.  Further, if we are paying close attention to whether or not our children are watching and hearing too then this can lead to problems for them.


For adults, here are some suggestions and guidance for managing these large-scale tragedies and events:

  1. Limit media exposure.Usually after approximately 10 minutes the same information and scenes are just being repeated.Further, keep in mind that the media is not always accurate and try as best you can to avoid unreliable sources of information.

  2. Try to find a way to “do something” to help.Often, the worst feeling we have is how helpless we feel.Whether it be donating money, supplies, or even offering up prayers it can be a way to feel like you are involved in the healing process.

  3. Talk about your thoughts and feelings with other adults, or journal about them.Choose friends to talk to whom you find to be calming and rational, and perhaps avoid these topics with those who may just increase your own negative feelings.

  4. Pay attention to your mood.If you notice you are feeling more anxious or depressed than normal it may be best to completely avoid the news for awhile.

  5. Make a conscious effort to focus on positive things as well.Make a list of things you are grateful for – this can be a good way to start and end each day.

For parents and caregivers, these are some suggestions for managing children’s exposure to these traumas:

  1. As the parent or guardian, be the one to tell your child about the events and do not allow them to watch the news.You can be a filter, choosing what information and details to give them, whereas if they are watching the news you do not have control over what images, words or sounds they might be exposed to.

  2. Keep in mind their age and developmental level when determining how much, if any information to give them.You can say something like, “Before you go to school today I want you to know about something that happened in case other kids talk about it… The most important thing I want you to know is that it happened far away from here and you are safe.”

  3. Encourage your children and teens to talk about their day and be mindful of any hints that they have heard their peers talking about these tragedies.If so, ask them what they have heard and allow them to talk about how it makes them feel.Again, make sure you offer plenty of reassurance that they are safe.

  4. Involve you children in recovery and healing efforts too.Having them go through their clothes or toys to find donations or taking them shopping for items to give can also be a way they can feel helpful.

In summary, these are not easy issues to deal with as adults, let alone children.  While we want to remain empathic to those in our nation who are hurting and suffering, we also need to be mindful of taking care of ourselves and our mental health and protecting our children as much as possible. 



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