Contributing Experts: Naline Lai, MD, FAAP and Julie Kardos, MD, FAAP
|A Quick Look: |
– Talk to your child in an honest, yet age-appropriate manner
– Reach out to others if you need help supporting your child
– Suggest tangible ways your child/family can help
|Over the past few years, it sometimes feels like we’re waking up to more bad news every day. In the past week, we have witnessed events in Ukraine that are devastating for the people of their country and sad and painful for the international community. Even if you live halfway around the world, the conflict and threat of nuclear war are distressing to us as parents and confusing for our children.|
If you’re wondering if – or how — to explain this situation to your children, Naline Lai, MD, FAAP, and Julie Kardos, MD, FAAP, CHOP pediatricians in Bucks County and co-founders of the Two Peds in a Pod blog , suggest relaying the facts about what is happening in a straightforward, age-appropriate manner.
“Even though an event may have taken place far away from home, the media can make it seem as if it happened next door,” says Dr. Lai.
It’s also important to talk about what happened to reassure kids they’re not the cause of any worry or tension they’re sensing.
“Kids can sense your emotions, even when you haven’t told them why you’re feeling a certain way,” says Dr. Kardos. “Not telling your children about an event that’s troubling you may make them concerned that they’re to blame for any worried or hushed conversations they overhear.”
Need more help having tough conversations with your kids? Dr. Lai and Dr. Kardos shared the following tips: Offer concrete answers to your kids’ questions, but don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”If your kids ask, “Will that happen here?” or “Why did that happen?” keep your answers simple and straightforward. For instance, you can say, “I don’t know, but many people are working hard to prevent something like that from happening here.”Consider answering questions with a question. Asking, “What do you think?” will give you an idea of exactly what your child fears. Reach out to others for help answering tough questions. For example, you can speak with your pediatrician, a minister or school counselor to see what they have to say. Routine is reassuring to children, so turn off the background of 24-hour TV and internet coverage of the event. Instead, get schoolwork done, go outside with your kids to play, or have your kids help you make dinner.Suggest ways for your kids to do something tangible that is helpful to those affected by recent events. They can put aside part of their allowance for a donation or ask a local business to host a donation bucket. You can also encourage your children to draw on cards, posters and even your driveway or sideway to express their feelings, bring people together and show others that kindness matters.“Children need to know that adults are comfortable discussing concerning events, letting them know that we are also affected and that we will listen to them and be there for them,” adds Tami D. Benton, MD, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at CHOP.
If your child seems overly anxious and fearful, and their worries are interfering with their ability to conduct their daily activities, such as performing at school, sleeping, eating, and maintaining strong relationships with family and friends, it’s important to seek professional help.
The most important things you, as a parent, can do are to help your children feel secure in themselves and in the world around them. You may not hold all the answers to why a tragedy strikes, but you do hold the ability to comfort and reassure your children.
For more advice on this topic, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.
Some repeated and additional thoughts that we often suggest considering when working with children during times of stress and/or loss:
- Take cues from the children about what they want to process and talk about – find out what they know and how they feel.
- Limit exposure to the media and violent images.
- Process adult feelings with adults – not in front of the children.
- Reassure them that you care about them and their safety, that these are your priorities.
- Answer questions honestly and in developmentally-appropriate ways.
- It’s ok to say, “let me think about that and get back to you” when you’re not sure of what to say at first.
- Look to others, your faith, and family for sources of support.
- Continue to monitor them and check in.
- If concerns or questions arise, consider speaking with someone like Linda Kamel, BFS’s School Counselor
With a shared vision for peace, unity, and love in the world,