Children may ask harder questions than usual in order to satisfy their curiosity and better understand the world after they witness media coverage of violent tragedies like the attack on law enforcement in Dallas.
Dr. Amanda Beeman, a child psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital, advises parents to field these questions only after they have taken a moment for self-reflection, a moment to try to see how they feel about the situation their child has brought up and where they may have biases.
After taking that moment, Beeman says it is important to model a desire to understand and learn about other people.
“I think talking about any tragedy is complicated,” said Beeman. “Especially when, as parents, we don’t have a perfect understanding of the situation about how we feel about the situation ourselves.”
Parents need to know it is all right if they do not fully understand, and it is important for them to teach their children this is all right, according to Beeman. Parents can take advantage of questions from their children to take the time to learn alongside them.
“Knowing that you are limited in your ability to understand and communicating that to your children is a great way to teach this desire to listen and learn, to have empathy for those who are different than us,” said Beeman.
Interacting with people from different backgrounds, races and economic status can be uncomfortable at first, but it is a great way to lessen existing biases for people from those walks of life.
“Increasing our contact with people humanizes them and prevents us from putting them in groups and from setting them in ideas and groups that aren’t necessarily their’s,” said Beeman.
Parents must decide how much they are going to expose their children to this information, and ensure they are developmentally prepared to begin having discussions about tragic events, like shootings. Before talking about what they know, parents should ask their children what they have already learned and how they feel about it, so you can provide information at their level of understanding.
“Children are great teachers,” said Beeman. “They have really great, unique ideas.”
Beeman also encouraged individuals on social media to step back and consider the situation and those involved before jumping to conclusions and voicing opinions to their children or online.
“When you’re trying to figure out what to do in a situation like this—what to say or what to do—I think sometimes the best thing is to acknowledge your limitations and to say that it’s all right not to say anything right now,” said Dr. Beeman. “Say, ‘It’s all right just to grieve with the people who are grieving.’ ”
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