The terrible news of the killings in Paris is already flooding screens repetitively and there will be more and more images and discussions to come. News like this is, understandably, big and has a big effect on our mood and the thoughts and feelings we express out loud.
When things like this happen and there is a change in mood, the younger people in your household may have questions or they may be, also understandably, quite distressed by what they see and hear.
What words can possibly explain the complexities of terrorism attack on innocent people? We owe it to our children to give then the information they need to process it all in the ways that help them understand, but also in ways that don’t distress them.
Different children will react in different ways to big, terrible events. Some of this difference will be due to their age and abilities to get their thoughts around it all. Preschoolers may be upset because they can see it is upsetting the grown up in their life. Teens might be upset because of the injustice and unfairness of it all. Children will also have difference reactions based on their own individual temperaments and coping abilities. Some sensitive little people may have more questions and be more unsettled by the news. Some may have recently lost a loved one and the grief may be fresh in their minds.
If you have little folk in your household, try not to expose them to long hours of repeated news coverage. These days, there are many ways that you can quickly keep up to date. Exposing yourself to lengthy, repeated, footage can make you feel helpless and vulnerable as well so tune out form the long haul and just check in from time to time.
Don’t try to avoid the news or hide it from your children. Be sure to check to see if your children have any questions or worries and do your best to answer them. If you cannot answer them, it’s okay to let your child know that you don’t know that answer.
Some things in life we just don’t know yet, but there are lots of things we do know….we know that some people will be sad, we know that people will be angry, we know that people will be working hard to make things safe again, we know people will have different ideas about what is important and …. (this is a great time to tell your kids) that you know they are super-important to you.
With the big screens off for awhile, it would be a great time to spend time with the family. You could break out a board game or a pack of card or go for a walk or family bike ride. Do some things you enjoy doing as a family.
Celebrate our freedom to do lovely things with our kids by doing lovely things with your kids.
Reassure worried children that they are safe and that members of their family are safe. You might like to find a globe or a map and show them where Paris is compared to where they live. It’s also important to emphasise that while it is a terrible thing that has happened in Paris, it’s a very rare thing. Big, terrible, rare things always make the news. Daily, happy, fun things still happen, but they don’t often make headlines.
Some little ones who are more easily upset, may need you to spend a little longer with them at bed time until they settle. Try to stick to the evening routines and as you say your “good nights”, remind them of the lovely plans you many have together for the very next day.
If your child feels sad, encourage then to express their sadness. They may kike to draw a picture or make a card to send to someone. They may like to donate some of their things to a charity. Helping others or doing nice things for others is a way that we can feel better when we have little control over a big world event.
If you have a little one in your household, or indeed, if you yourself, struggle to settle after a few nights and days and distress starts to interfere with the day to day things needed in life, be sure to check in with your General Practitioner.