As a therapist who specializes in trauma treatment, events such as the terror attacks that unfolded in Paris yesterday have particular relevance. Even from a distance, people may be affected. This can be especially true for young children and parents may have difficulty knowing how to address these types of events with their kids. So here are some helpful tips:
Ask & Listen. Ask your children about what they have heard or seen and really listen so you can get a feel for their understanding. Normalize that it's okay to feel sad or even mad that people got hurt. Emphasize that there is no such thing as good or bad people, but there are people who make bad choices, which may hurt other people. Explain that there are many people who will protect them from such people, including yourself as their parent and police.
Emphasize Safety. Emphasize to kids that even though scary things do happen in the world, they are safe. Explain that it's your job as a parent to keep them safe and that you take that this job very seriously. One way to help kids feel safe is to stick to routines - bed times, after school activities, meals. Whatever you normally do as a family, keep doing it.
Turn off the News. Often these types of events take time to process and continued exposure to all the nitty gritty details and 24/7 updates just adds layers of information that kids don’t need. (I would argue the same for adults!)
Check Yourself. Years ago it was believed that you could only develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder if you yourself were directly exposed to the trauma. We have since learned that is not the case. People who witness or hear about traumatic events can also develop PTSD symptoms such as upsetting, intrusive thoughts about the event, avoidance of talking or thinking about the event, irritability, and sleep difficulties. For most people, these symptoms will resolve without intervention. But if you or your child are struggling with these symptoms or finding it hard to enjoy things you used to enjoy, talk to a therapist who specializes in trauma.