World Trauma and Young Children

The recent events in our world leave most of us wondering about the motivation of people to intentionally harm others.  And, as we try to help children understand that the world, at least their immediate world, is a safe place, these things that they hear about in the media and elsewhere give rise to questions they may ask which are difficult to answer.  As adults, our job is to help children grow up, and part of growing up is having language to talk about the things that go on around us.  In this particular instance, we don’t want children to perseverate on the trauma of the current events because, for the most part, very young children are not able to understand the magnitude of the trauma so it could be overwhelming and traumatizing for them.  However, if they bring it up, we need to give them some developmentally appropriate answers wherein there is truth.   Telling them that sometimes people do bad things that hurt other people is a way for them to understand.  As curious children, they may ask “why,” and you can let them know that we don’t always know “why.”  Focusing on safety, security, telling them that you are there and will keep them safe and that other adults in their lives will keep them safe will help reassure them.  You can also tell them that their job is to play and grow.  Other things to consider for your child(ren) are:

  • Reducing television, media, and conversational exposure
  • Reassuring them that there are many people helping such as firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, people in the community helping each other, and any others you may want to share with them

I take some advice and solace in what I saw online from the quotes of Mr. Rogers –just one of many ways to approach this issue with children.  He encouraged us to “look for the helpers.”  Whether you were a fan of Mr. Rogers or not, there is wisdom in his advice as it focuses not on helplessness but rather those who are helping.   Here is the link to that information.  

Post by Sarah Wilhelms, MSW, LCSW