Talking to Children about Tragedy


Tips for speaking to your children about tragedies such as shootings, mass disasters, natural disasters.

US National Archives kids

Photo courtesy of National Archives

Unfortunately there have been shootings and other tragedies in many communities, large and small, in America. Children and teenagers are affected by disasters and tragedies just as are adults.

The most important thing that a parent can do is ask the child or teen his or her understanding of the tragic event, so that the child feels comfortable expressing emotion. Silence suggests to the teen that the subject is too awful to even discuss, even though of course, the teen is thinking and worrying about the event. Start by gently correcting any misconceptions. You don’t have to describe the event in detail, but allowing the child or teen to discuss her feelings is important.

Parents think toddlers don’t understand what they see on television, but toddlers recognize the emotions their parents are feeling. Preschool children may regress in their behavior and become more clingy. They may start sucking their thumbs, or wetting the bed. Other toddlers may act out. Strong emotions bring out strong behavior. When toddlers, preschool, and school age children see the disaster or tragic event on television, they think the event is occurring again and again. Keeping the television off to prevent retraumatization is helpful. Recording television programs and reviewing the broadcasts before the children see it can be helpful. Watching the television with your child so he can ask questions is also helpful.

School age children may also either act out or regress in their behavior. Sleeping in parents bed or skipping chores for a day or two is okay! It allows the child to feel more secure and safe. Security is a huge concern for children. Make sure they know that measures have been taken by law enforcement or the community, or that your family has a safety plan.

With teens, they may feel that life is meaningless and may take more risks than normal. Watch for this type of behavior because risky behavior can affect the adolescent in a significant way. Discussing positive actions carried out by heroes or bystanders can also be helpful. The teen may want to be closer to their parent for a period of time, to feel safe, and that is fine. Trouble sleeping and a decline in grades (transiently) can also occur. Some teenagers may try to avoid the people and situations that occurred at the time of the tragedy because these triggers cause

If your child or teen continues to have negative feelings and depression after 2 weeks, professional consultation with a physician, psychologist, or counselor will be helpful.

Last updated by Dr. Vee on October 22, 2015.

Tips to Make Your Halloween Safe!


Take your kids to fun and safe trick-or-treating event in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Pumpkin carving safety

Only Adults Should Carve Pumpkins

  • Never let children carve pumpkins. Kids can help by drawing a pattern on the pumpkin and removing the pulp and seeds once the pumpkin is cut.
  • A sharp knife can become wedged in the thicker part of the pumpkin, requiring force to remove it, causing hand injury when the knife finally dislodges from the thick skin of the pumpkin. Injuries are also sustained when the knife slips and comes out the other side of the pumpkin where your hand may be holding it steady.

Use a Pumpkin Carving Kit

  • Special kits are available in stores and include small, serrated pumpkin saws that work better because they are less likely to get stuck in the thick pumpkin tissue.
  • When cutting, adults should cut away from themselves in small, controlled strokes.

Help for An Injury

  • If you cut your finger or hand, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding within15 minutes, be evaluated in the Emergency Room

Halloween Safety Tips

Costume Safety

  • Be sure your kids are wearing flame-resistant costumes.
  • Never walk near lit candles or luminaries.
  • Keep candle-lit Jack O’Lanterns and luminaries away from steps, walkways, sidewalks, landings, and curtains.
  • Place Jack O’ Lanterns on sturdy tables, keep them out of the reach of pets and small children, and never leave them unattended.
  • For greater visibility attach to costumes reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Halloween bags should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware and sporting goods stores.
  • Children should carry flashlights while trick or treating to see where they are walking and so that cars can see them as they walk
  • Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.
  • Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes to prevent trips.
  • Apply a natural mask of cosmetics (avoiding the eye area) rather than a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision. If wearing a mask make sure keyholes are large enough to allow good vision
  • If wearing a mask, use a well-fitting masks to avoid blocked vision
  • Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be soft and flexible to avoid injury.
  • Test makeup on a small patch of skin before applying to face or body.
  • Don’t decorate your face with things that are not intended for skin
  • Do not use face paint near the eyes, even if the label has a picture of people wearing it near the eyes.

Diagram showing ways to prevent accidents on halloween costumesPhoto:Consumerist|CC

Trick or Treating Safety

  • Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child.
  • All children should walk, not run from house to house and use the sidewalk if available, rather than walk in the street.
  • Children should be cautioned against running out from between parked cars, or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, or clotheslines present dangers.
  • Glow sticks contain a liquid that produces a temporary burning sensation and bad taste in the mouth when tasted. Small amounts that are swallowed are generally not harmful.

Choosing Safe Houses:

  • Children should go only to homes where the residents are known and have outside lights on as a sign of welcome.
  • Children should not enter homes or apartments unless they are accompanied by an adult.

halloween-safety.jpg

Halloween Candy Safety

  • Before kids go trick-or-treating, serve a healthy meal so they’re not hungry when they collect candy.
  • To prevent temptation, know how much candy your child has collected and don’t store it in his or her bedroom.
  • Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled. Candy and snacks shouldn’t get in the way of kids eating healthy meals.
  • If a child is overweight — or you’d just like to reduce the Halloween stash — consider buying back some or all of the remaining Halloween candy. This method acknowledges the candy belongs to the child and provides a treat in the form of a little spending money.
  • Be a role model by eating Halloween candy in moderation yourself. To help avoid temptation, buy your candy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.
  • Encourage your kids to be mindful of the amount of candy and snacks eaten — and to stop before they feel full or sick.

Alternatives to Candy

You also can offer some alternatives to candy to the trick-or-treaters who come to your door. Here are some treats you might give out:

  • Non-food treats, like stickers, toys, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, like tiny decks of cards (party-supply stores can be great sources for these)
  • Snacks such as small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum (for older kids), trail mix, small boxes of raisins, and popcorn
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Small boxes of cereal
  • Avoid toys that could pose choking hazards to very young children.

Children Trick-or-treating

Children Trick-or-treating — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Candy Safety

  • Parents should instruct their children not to open their candy until they return home.
  • Inspect all candy for tampering before allowing them to start eating.
  • Accept only wrapped and packaged candy.
  • Do not eat candy that has been unwrapped or opened.
  • Never eat fruit or other unwrapped items.
  • Prevent a stomach ache by limiting 2- 3 small pieces of candy at a time.
  • Throw away any candy or food that is not wrapped tightly by the candy company.
  • Accept and give out candy that isn’t easily unwrapped. Candies such as Tootsie Rolls, hard candies and certain bubble gums with twist-type wrappings can be tampered with more easily than those that are sealed.
  • When in doubt, throw it out
  • Keep small hard candies, gum, peanuts, from children under the age of five because it is a choking hazard.
  • Keep chocolate candy, raisins, and macadamia nuts away from dogs. It is toxic to them, even in small amounts.

References:

Kids Health.org

American Society for the Surgery of the Hand

CDC. gov

American Academy of Pediatrics

AAA

PismoBeach.org

Red Cross

MyrtleBeach.com

Halloween Safety - AAA

Last Updated by Dr. Vee on October 14, 2015