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Talking to Children about Tragedy

Questions. Questions are bound to happen after a tragedy occurs. Questions that are difficult or impossible to answer. Questions come from all of us but how do we answer the questions that come from the smallest and most innocent individual in our home… our children?

Our children are intuitive and able to read our body language when a crisis like this occurs in our community. So even if your child has not been exposed to all of the news reports and conversations about what happened in South Florida on Valentine's Day, they know that something else is taking place… they can feel the tension in the air.

So here are some guidelines in speaking to children about crisis or tragedy:
Be patient: A child often repeats important questions at different times and in different ways until the child has made peace with the traumatic event.
Be honest: Trust is critical in helping the child bring order to his/her world and to keep the communication channel open.
Be observant: What does the question ask, and what does it represent? Be ready to pause and ask a question before you give an answer. Know that you don’t have to answer all questions that are asked.
Be alert: Watch for nonverbal communication, symbolic communication, change in play, eating, school, sleep patterns.
Be attentive: Shape your responses to the child’s needs. Confirm what the child has grasped from your response.
Be human: Let the child know you are having feelings that are difficult to understand. Allow yourself to say, “I don’t know, I’ll ask”. Allow yourself to be available for follow up conversations if the child wishes to talk.
Be Jesus: Love, listen and live the faith and hope that God has given you.

Common reactions of children in response to crisis or tragedy:
• Distrust: Questioning of worldview and religious beliefs
• Recurrent or frightening dreams
• Purposely going over and over the events in their mind
• Feelings of fear, panic, depression, anger, shame and sadness
• Obsessive safety concerns
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Regressive behavior
• Clinging to those they love in order to feel safe

We are resilient people and while tragedy does shake us and our beliefs we cling tight to the hope we have in our Savior. The power of Christ can be seen in our community as they gather together for support and love to those who are hurting.

LCS continues to offer support to all of those who are coping with this tragedy. If you are in need of services please call LCS at 407-644-4692, we have counselors available to speak with you over the phone as well as appointments available with our therapists here in Orlando.

Written by: Megan Miessler, LCSW