In light of the horrific and tragic events in Paris, I've written this blog to give you some useful information when talking to your young children about tragedy.
As adults we do our best to shield young children from the harsh realities of today's world. Your first inclination may be to keep your children unaware of such tragic events, and in an ideal world, we could. However with access to technology young children are exposed to more things, each and every day.
As adults we often wonder how they know what they know; children may utter an adult expression, or something we thought we said in confidence to a spouse. Because of their curious nature, young children are more aware of things than we'd like to believe. Young children are keyed in to their surroundings and most importantly to the people that are most important to them. They 'overhear' adult discussions, are hearing the television or radio blare even when they appear to be otherwise occupied, they may see a news alert on an ipad or phone. Children are very in tune with their surroundings and most importantly what you are feeling.
So what can you do?
There are several things to keep in mind while monitoring your child's comments and behavior to ensure that they are feeling safe.
1. Listen, listen, listen- Evaluate what your child is saying and the tone in which they are saying it. Use reflexive listening and open ended questions to elicit more information. What are they feeling? When speaking do they appear scared, anxious, or is the information being stated in a matter of fact way?
2. Young children operate within their own child-sized frame of reference and will have a very limited understanding of the event. Keep explanations simple, non-graphic and connected to their comment(s) when responding. Do not give the child more information than they are asking for or need. When appropriate, try to use their language.
3. Allow you child to express their feelings through discussion or play. Expression of all and any feelings from the child is OK (click here!)Do not be alarmed if you see this expression through art or play. This is normal! And as always maintain tip 1 and Listen, Listen, Listen.
4. Maintain Routine. Routine, consistency, and familiarity are important to help children feel regulated and safe.
5. Reassure your child that their grownups will keep them safe. Remind them that you and their surrounding adults know how to keep them safe. There is no need to raise any alarms in young children, they want to be reassured that they are loved, cared for and protected.
Lastly, we are all aware that the world we live in today is a very different one. Do not forget to review safety and evacuation procedures with your family should an emergency occur.