Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, Newport Academy Executive Director in Northern California, spoke on the San Francisco-based news channel KRON-TV about how to talk to children about tragic events. Parents are often concerned that telling a child about sad news is going to make it worse, says Dr. Dragonette, but it’s essential to talk openly about what happened. She recommends parents approach the topic head on, start with questions, and validate children’s feelings.
Anchor: While adults can process emotions on losing a great basketball player, we have to stop and think how we explain situations like this to children. Earlier today on KRON we talked to Dr. Jennifer Dragonette on having conversations with children when the world loses prominent figures.
Dr. Dragonette: ‘First of all, we do need to not be afraid to talk to our children about sad events like this. Sometimes I think parents have the misperception that telling a child about sad news or being willing to talk about it could make it worst but in fact they need us to be there for them and to be able to talk openly about what happened.
I’d recommend parents approach it head-on, assume that children will be able to access this information on their own- even if it is not the parent, and understand that what they need right now is to have validation for their feelings and what they are experiencing.
I would recommend that parents start with questions of “how are you impacted by this?”, “How is this sitting with you?”., to be able to frame that grief really comes and goes. Particularly with children it might not be a linear type of grief, it might not be the worst in the beginning and then increasingly easier as time goes on. Grief can pop up unexpectedly. Another thing to be aware of is that if a family also experienced death or loss this can trigger those feelings and can make old losses come to the surface again.
We obviously don’t want to overload on exposure to it but being willing to have that conversation with your child about you know, this is something really hard that happen and that this is hard for me too and I am impacted by it.’