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How can I keep my child calm after a tragedy in the news?

It’s a parent's job to emphasize the unity of the family and the safety of the family, and so when there’s a tragedy in the news, parents should take even more time out if possible to interact and spend time with their child. That interpersonal interaction is really what makes kids feel safe at the end of the day, no matter what the stressor is. Instead of watching TV during their waking hours to get caught up on things, maybe you should watch TV when they’re asleep, so again, they’re not exposed to material that's scaring them.

Dr. Michele Borba
Psychology Specialist

Here are a few strategies that calm and soothe kids during a tragedy:

  • Stick to routines

One of the best ways to alleviate anxiety is to stick to your normal routines. It is comforting and soothing to kids to know that life is normal -- even though the news is giving them quite a different message. So stick to your routines. It sends a clear message that after a tragedy that parents keep going to work, kids continue going to school, and the world will go on.

  • Comfort kids with family activities

In times of stress, your child needs to feel embraced by her family. That's why it's a good idea to spend plenty of time doing things together -- it helps her feel safe and sends a "we're all in this together" message. Find tension-releasing activities the entire family can do together. For instance, go for walks or bike rides, pray or meditate, listen to soothing music or watch humorous videos.

  • Watch your behavior

Remember, actions do speak louder than what you say, so how you act -- especially during times of trauma and uncertainty -- does make a difference on how your kids act. If you are feeling a bit jittery during and after a tragedy, imagine how our kids must feel. Children mirror our behavior. If you're upset, your child is upset. If you worry about the future of our nation, so does your child. If you're concerned "This could happen here!" or "No one is safe anymore" you will cloud your child's view of the world. Watch what you say.

  • Draw attention to heroism and compassion

Expose your child to the wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another during a tragedy. Talk about the heroes -- the bystanders -- the paramedics -- the doctors! Find those stories in the newspaper and share them.

Ask your child to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table from now own. Many families call those "Good News Reports." It's so important to assure your children that there's more to the world than threats and fear and hate.

Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message. Let's be the change we want our children to become.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.