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Talking with your children about tragedy and loss

SEATTLE — The young boy from Lynnwood who was killed on Monday was also a student at Beverly Elementary School. The school sent out an email to parents calling Dayvid Pakko a “vivacious, loving, determined six-year-old.”

How to talk to kids about death is always a delicate subject. When that death is more violent, helping children deal with that grief is more complicated.

The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, in Portland Oregon provides suggestions on how best to talk with your kids after a tragic event like Dayvid’s death.

 

  • Don’t project your fears onto your children. They take their cues from the adults around them

When hearing news about children being murdered or communities devastated by natural disasters, you naturally think about your kids, about your family, about your friends.

The Center reminds parents that kids don’t always see things the way adults do. They need to see you care, but not fall apart. You don’t want to overwhelm your children with your extreme emotions

 

  • Try to limit their access to the recurring news and exposure to the tragedy over and over

Seeing graphic and emotional news can be overwhelming for kids and can cause anxiety and fear.

Kids who watched footage from 9/11 over and over thought the attack was happening again and again. They may have a hard time getting graphic images out of their minds. So don’t let them watch the news over and over. You can help them, and yourself, by not watching those images too much as well.

 

  • Understand that you can’t completely shield them from what happened

It’s near impossible to keep bad news from your kids, but there are things you can do to limit what they see or hear. Turning off the TV is a good step. Of course, you can’t control what children hear from other children. Talk with your children about the event, but they don’t need more information than they can handle.

 

  • Model truth-telling and build trust with your children by letting them hear things, even hard things, from you directly

Not talking about an event, like the murder of Dayvid Pakko or something on the scale of 9/11, does not help your child. You need to talk with them. You can control the conversation to make sure they get only information you believe they can understand.

The Center says kids want, need, and deserve the truth. They write that in 30 years of providing grief support, they never heard a child say they were glad they were lied too. And kids who weren’t told the truth often struggled with anger and a lack of trust that person who lied to them.

Talking about these subjects are hard but necessary and ultimately, talking honestly with your kids about tragic events can help build trust allowing them to talk with you openly later in life about their fears and concerns.