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Jul 15 2016

Parenting During Tragic Times

By: Donna Carter, Instructional Design Specialist of the Arkansas Home Visiting Networks' Training Institute

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of tragic incidents in our country. These events have many of us glued to our televisions and other devices, and as we watch for the latest updates, the events are played over and over.

As it should be, these tragedies have sparked conversations regarding relations between various groups. Unfortunately, in some instances, the conversations have been filled with anger and maybe even laced with profanity and or slurs regarding a particular group.

While it is understandable that families want to stay abreast of events taking place in the various communities around the country, and conversations regarding these issues are important, it is even more important that parents and other caregivers are aware of how exposure to these events and angry conversations, can affect their children.


Media Exposure 

According to statistics from a Nielsen report, television viewing is still at an all-time high, with children ages 2 to 5 watching more than 32 hours per week. Televisions are often on in homes even when no one’s watching, and in some cases are used to keep children occupied.

Parents should monitor what their children watch on television as well as what’s on when the children are in the room, even if they don’t appear to be paying attention. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "… violence can have lasting effects on children even if they are only learning about it through the media."

Children have a natural curiosity regarding technology, and parents should also be aware of what they view on their other devices when their children are around.

Home visitors can provide the following tips to parents and other caregivers:

  • If possible, children younger than 5 do not need to be told about what happened
  • If a child asks questions regarding an event, stick to the facts and avoid details
  • Communicate an openness and willingness to talk. Answer your child’s questions and listen to their feelings
  • Expressing their feelings helps children to cope. Be reassuring about all of the security at work protecting us, and maintain daily routines to help reinforce a sense of normalcy.  

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears 

For those of you who may not be familiar with this saying, it means that small children often over hear more of what is said than adults realize. In addition to parents talking out loud about their biases, facial expressions, posture and body language all convey a lot that kids see.

Here’s some tips on how to teach tolerance in the home:

  • Be careful what you say around your children. Your own biases can and do influence your child’s behaviors and beliefs
  • Read books with children that feature diversity
  • Expose your children to people from all walks of life, races, and income levels, and
  • Be open to discussing uncomfortable issues with your children

Think young children don't notice differences between themselves and others? This graphic provides some insight into how children as young as 2 years of age begin to develop racial and cultural identity and attitudes.  

Additional Resources

Additional resources on this topic are available from the following links:

Coping with Violence

I Am Safe and Secure: Promoting Resilience in Young Children

Talking to Children about Tragedies & Other News Events

Tragic Events

Protecting Children from Extreme Screen Violence

Helping Children Resist Bias and Hate

Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children

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