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Tips on Helping Your Child to Deal with Real Life Tragedies

It is often difficult to know what goes through a child's mind because they rarely voice their concerns. This is true with ordinary everyday events. So what should a parent do when extraordinary events occur, such as a natural disaster, a death in the family, or something else that is reported on the TV news?

Here are some tips I am happy to share written by Charlotte Reznick PhD as adapted from her book, The Power of Your Child's Imagination:

  1. Talk to your children and provide simple, accurate information to questions. Allow them to tell and draw their stories about what happened.
  2. Talk with your children about your own feelings.
  3. Listen to what your children say and how they say it. Try to acknowledge the underlying feelings in their words and their actions. For example: "I can see it makes you sad to think about all the people who were hurt by this earthquake." This helps both you and the children clarify feelings.
  4. Reassure your child: "We are together. We are safe. We will take care of you."
  5. Be honest and don't deny the seriousness of the situation. Saying to a child: "Don't cry, everything will be okay," does not reflect how the child feels and the child knows that, at least in the immediate future, this is not true.
  6. Respond to repeated questions. You may need to repeat information and reassurances many times.
  7. Hold your child. Touching is especially important for children when they are distressed.
  8. Spend extra time with your child and when putting him/her to bed. Talk and offer assurance. Leave the night light on if necessary.
  9. Observe your child at play. Listen to what she says and how she plays. Frequently children express feelings of fear or anger while playing with dolls, trucks, or friends.
  10. Have your child imagine not only how it "feels" to be safe, but what it looks like, what sounds she hears, what smells she detects. Evoking as many senses as possible will make the experience seem real.
  11. Provide play, art, and writing games to relieve tension. You can have him act out, draw, or write out a positive outcome for the situation.
  12. Plan something practical that your child can do to help (do a pennies fundraiser at school or draw a picture memorializing a person who may have died).
"Dr. Reznick is a child educational psychologist and an associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA. She is author of a critically acclaimed new book and LA Times bestseller, The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee/Penguin). You can find out more about her at"

Thank you to CS Lewis & Co. Publicists for providing this information to share with my readers. I have received no compensation for sharing this information.