How to talk to kids about tragic events

Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-02 19:11:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When tragedy strikes, it’s hard to wrap your head around it, and it’s even harder to talk to your kids about it. 

Children of all ages can be disturbed by the images and stories causing anxiety and fear of the world around them. 

"They wind up feeling unsafe. They feel like something is going to happen to them,” said Dr. Bob Batterson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Children’s Mercy Hospital. 

Following a tragic event like the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Batterson said anxiety can increase in both adults and children. He said having an open and honest conversation is a good place to begin. 

"If the timing is right, I think at least to mention, you know, ‘Honey, I was just curious, have you heard about all of the stuff going on and how are you doing with that,’” said Batterson. 

While you can’t predict the future, Batterson said kids should not be scared to live their lives. 

"Most people are not dangerous people; they don't need to grow up fearing the entire world,” said Batterson. 

When a traumatic event happens, Batterson suggested limiting the amount of time your child spends watching television and on social media. While adults may be able to handle 24-hour coverage of breaking news, children oftentimes can’t. 

If you plan on having a conversation with your children following any tragic event, Batterson recommends taking care of your own anxiety first.