Talking to children about tragedy - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Talking to children about tragedy

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

There is no book on how to tell your child why the Boston Bombings occurred, no Internet site on why people died in the Texas explosion; it's up to parents to provide answers. It leaves parents asking themselves, ‘How do I explain to my child what happened?'

"If the child's asking questions, that's a great time to have a conversation. You don't necessarily need to initiate it; follow their lead," says Lauren McCann, Child Life Manager at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

McCann says for young children, it may be inappropriate to provide them with in-depth answers or specific information especially in regards to injuries. Teens may already have an understanding about the disasters, but McCann says to keep an eye out for behavioral changes like nightmares or trouble sleeping.

"The family's stressed, the neighborhood is stressed, the country is stressed out: That can also come out in the children. They feed off the environment around them," she says.

McCann adds that the toughest question for parents to answer from their child is, ‘Why?' She says parents need to understand there are no "right words" to answering this question, so parents should just answer honestly.

"Some of these questions are really hard and ‘I don't know' is a perfectly okay answer: ‘I don't know, but we're here to love you and support you and you have so many people around you who are going to take care of you,'" says McCann, "That's the most truthful you can be with a child and that's what we always advocate is being truthful is important."

In a blog on Le Bonheur's website (, Child Life Director Thomas Hobson writes that parents should assure children that what they're feeling following the tragedies is normal. He adds, "It is also important to help children feel safe and secure in their environment by maintaining normal activities, rules and routines in the family system."  
By maintaining the normal household routine, McCann says it hedges some of the stress and worry children experience in traumatic events.

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