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  • Dr. Shane Owens

2 minutes (or less) on talking to kids about terror

Recent events may cause your kids to overestimate the probability of danger. While limiting your kids' (and your own) media exposure is important, it is likely you will not be entirely quarantined.

You are going to have to talk about danger with your kids. Here’s how:

1 – Deal with your own feelings.

Get a grip on how you feel. Whatever you feel is valid. Remember that what you feel is somewhat less important than what you do about it in this moment. Kids will learn from you how to react to what they feel. Do what you want them to do.

2 – Let them know that something has happened and that you are there to talk.

Do not provide details, just let them know that they might hear something bad happened. If they've already heard, ask them what they think they know. Clear up misconceptions as appropriate. Ask them how they feel. Talk about your feelings and model the responses you want from them.

3 – Let them know that adults are here to protect them.

As the footage rolls and rolls and …, there will be all kinds of talk about strategy and politics and values. While adults can and must tackle those issues, kids are not ready. Limit their (and your) exposure to these things. Consistently show them that you and other adults will do everything they can to keep them safe.

4 – Listen and ask questions.

This is good advice whenever in doubt or when you have difficulty with number 1. Much of the time, listening and asking the right questions is the best route to healthy coping. Encourage them to ask you anything they need to.

Most people—even those directly involved—will come through this without lasting problems. We will go back to our lives and come again next year to remember.

If your kid appears to have real difficulty managing this current set of crises, effective help is available.

That help is available to you as well.

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