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How should I talk to my child about a tragedy in the news?

Gail M. Saltz, MD
Psychiatry
Children take their emotional cues from adults; so anxious parents tend to have worried kids. In this video, psychiatrist Gail Saltz, MD, explains how to contain your own fears, and the best way to talk to kids about worrisome, tragic situations. 
Michele Borba
Psychology
The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers these tips for explaining a tragedy to your child:
  • Ages 5 to 9: Don't be surprised with questions such as "Why do people kill? Why would someone want to kill those kids?" Be honest. You may not know that answer. Don't be turned off by those questions. You want your kids to ask -- and keep asking.
  • Ages 10 to 12: They may not want to chat but it doesn't mean they're not thinking about the tragedy. An opener such as: "What are your friends saying?" may begin the conversation.
  • Age 13 and over: This age may try to minimize the event or argue more with you then want to discuss what happened. Because victims were teens this age may also be more affected. Tune in. Most teens can be involved in discussions about the news and stimulating conversations can result. Teachers, coaches, scout masters, camp directors may be discussing this with your tween or teen so you can spin off: "What have you heard?" Or use a newspaper clipping to begin the conversation.

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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.