Dealing With Tragedy With Children

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It is the tragedy of the Douglas High School shootings that I post this blog entry. This incident, because it was so close to my home, has left my children trying to make sense of it all (as many of us adults are doing the same). Having these conversations with our children is never easy, but we can’t shield them from the realities around them. If you are struggling to have these dialogues with your children, here are a few tips that I used with my own children and perhaps you may find some of them helpful as you talk to your children:

  • Answer your children’s questions in a way that is open, honest and age appropriate.
  • Reassure them that they are loved, cared for, safe and that you are there for them.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and let them know whatever they are feeling (sad, scared, angry, anxious, etc.) is perfectly okay. Let them know that you are feeling those same emotions too.
  • If your child doesn’t want to/can’t verbalize it, encourage them to draw, paint, or write/journal about it.
  • Get your children to see the incident from various perspectives (walk in each person’s shoes) in order to try to make sense of it.
  • Use characters in children’s books to help children to manage the stress of the trauma.

After one of these conversations with my children, my youngest son turns to me and says “Mommy, hurt people hurt people.” This was his attempt to see the sense of this senseless act. Let’s keep the open communication with our children. Based on the events at Douglas High School, it is imperitive that we do! Through tragedy, love can grow. Through tragedy, compassion can bloom. Through tragedy, change can happen. If you are still not sure, read one of these books with your children. These books are examples of how tragedy, when met with compassion and love, can change the world.


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Smokey Night by Eve Buntin

A young boy and his mother are forced to flee their apartment during a night of rioting in Los Angeles.


The Memory Box: A book about Grief by Joanna Rowland

To help with the grieving process, a young girl creates a memory box of items of her loved one.


Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams

An eight-year-old boy who is orphaned by Sudan’s civil war leads a group of others thousands of miles to safety and eventually to the United States.


Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

The story of a young Pakistani girl who stands up against the Taliban to speak out for every child’s right to education, especially girls.


Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier

A graphic novel for younger children about a grandmother telling her granddaughter the story of her life as a Jewish girl being hidden away from the Nazis.


I hope you find peace during this time and you find a sense of gratitude for your loved ones. I send prayers, light, and love to all of the families who are grieving right now.

How does your family deal with societal tragedies? Please leave a comment.