Helping #Children Cope with the Tragedy in #Barcelona #Spain

I want to scream, but I'm sitting silently in my living room, tapping out this post...trying as hard as I can to self-regulate. I'm sad...and angry...and am wishing I didn't have to write this post...again. Yet, here I am. Because terrorism has struck once more. This time in Spain. As the horror unfolds on television and on my news feed on my phone, my thoughts naturally gravitate towards the children.

I don't write this post out of desire, but rather out of need. A need I wish would go away. In the meantime, we have children who need support.

How Parents and Teachers Can Help

There are some guidelines we can follow that will help when talking to young children about the tragedy:

1. Don't Assume the Child Knows Nothing

Although you may not have told the child about the tragedy, he may have overheard adult conversations or other schoolmates discussing the situation, view a TV news bulletin or see graphic images on TV.

2. Ask

If your child begins asking questions about what happened in Barcelona, you will absolutely want to discuss it with him.  


"What do you know?" 

"What did you hear?" 

Listen for what the child knows, so you can respond accordingly.  

3. Tell

Tell the truth, but in an age-appropriate manner.  You do not have give all of the details.  

Young children benefit from hearing the basics: "A bad person hurt some people. It was scary. Lots of good people rushed in to help."

4. Be Honest

Share that a bad thing did happen, but that it is being taken care of by helper people.

5. Focus on the Positives

Focus on the "helper" people. When bad things happen, helper people come to help. Police and ambulance workers got there quickly to help the people they could. You might say,  "Lots of good people are helping the town now. Policemen, firefighters, ambulance workers, neighbors, counselors and clergy all came rushing in to help. People will be very sad. The people will help each other start to feel better."

6. Let Them Know They are Safe

Young children may think that their own personal safety is at risk. Let them know that they are safe and that things will remain the same in your community and household (if that is true). Acknowledge that it is a scary thing that happened. What happened in Barcelona almost never, ever, ever happens. That is the truth.  This does not constitute a "lie" to children. This situation is absolutely tragic.  Beyond comprehension.  What happened in Barcelona is scary, senseless and unfathomable, but statistically speaking, these types of events are rare.  This is true, even given the number of tragic events like this, we have heard of. This is what we want to focus on to help increase a child's sense of safety.

6. Limit Media Exposure

With cable and sattellite TV, news outlets are available 24/7. Be careful to ensure that your child is not exposed to ongoing stories about the tragedy. Young children may believe the tragedy is happening over and over again, or are still going on. Best to find the news you are looking for after they are in bed, or on your computer or mobile device, when they are out of earshot. 

7. Be Discreet

It's normal for you to want to process this tragedy with friends and family (it's normal to talk to things over and get support from others). When you do so, make sure your children are not able to overhear. Manage your own feelings and fears and take caution to make sure your children cannot hear you.

8.  Give Plenty of Hugs

Children always need physical affection, but they may need even more during times of stress or anxiety.  Hugs, back rubs and other physical activities and close contact sooth the limbic system (the "seat" of the emotions in the brain).

Join us in 
people. What we do in our homes matters.

It's so important.



Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is  the founder of Kidlutions and co-author of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids, co-creator of BLOOM Brainsmarts, and creator of The Joyful Parent. She is the creator of numerous workbooks and resources to help from the preschool through the teen years. 

Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Facebook! She'd love to see your smiling face there! Affiliate links may be used in this post. Please see our full disclaimer, located at the top of our page for more information.


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