We are saddened by the death of George Floyd and the pain that this event and many other social injustices have caused throughout history. We also recognize the impact that events like these have on families. This may have sparked questions and concerns among children and teens. It may feel overwhelming as you try to navigate the conversations around these difficult topics with your children. Additionally, everyone’s emotions may be elevated due to the ongoing pandemic and stay at home restrictions. Below are answers to common questions we are getting from patients and families along with resources to help discuss these topics with children.
It is always important to remember take good care of yourself first. Children thrive when their parents feel safe and supported. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your friends and family, find helpful resources online, or seek help from a professional.
The best way to talk about news and tragedies varies depending on the age of the child. For young children, keep the news at bay and prevent exposure to graphic content. Children may hear things from adults in conversation and ask questions. It’s important to break down issues for them to the simplest terms and use basic words for feelings such as sad, mad, or frustrated. For older children, limit phone/TV access as your family feels appropriate. Ask what they have seen on their phones or heard from friends.
Your child may be experiencing heightened emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger in response to current events. It is important for children and teens to understand that they are not alone in feeling these emotions. People all over the world are experiencing these same intense emotions. As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child to process and cope. Ask what would help them feel safe and brainstorm ways you can help them feel in control of their own situation. If feelings of fear or anxiety persist or impair their ability to function in school, at home, or socially, ask for professional help from your pediatrician or a mental health professional.
It may feel uncomfortable to begin difficult conversations with children and teens. Try to begin difficult conversations with your children at a young age, create a safe place for discussions without judgement, and be open and honest with them, which may include addressing your own vulnerabilities and fears. One way to find out what they already know is by asking open ended questions such as, “Why do you think your friends are sometimes mean to each other?” Finally, remember to answer questions honestly, but in a developmentally appropriate way. This may mean finding separate times to discuss a topic with different aged children.
If your child has been exposed to violence, it is important to observe how they may be processing this experience. Monitor changes in eating, sleeping, and socializing that may reflect underlying fears they may be having. Limit news exposure that may make fears worse. If negative emotions seem to be overwhelming your child, encourage them to discuss fears with a parent, caregiver, and/or professional.