Communication is key with kids after a tragedy - Albuquerque Journal

Communication is key with kids after a tragedy

Q: There have been so many acts of violence, tragedies and hardships lately. How do I talk to my kids about them and what can I do to support them?

A: The last couple of years have been incredibly difficult for kids and adults alike. We have had to deal with a pandemic that has altered our daily lives along with losing many loved ones to illness, observed violence and the effects of war in other countries, and seen the impacts of loss of life from mass shootings.

So many people have suffered from fear, stress, anxiety, depression and anger during these times, and parents and caretakers may have the additional stress of trying to help support kids through these challenging times Many families have been experiencing a feeling of helplessness.

When a tragedy occurs start with asking kids what they know about it. It is a good idea to talk to teens and kids of all ages as even young kids are often aware of tragic events. Asking kids to share with you what they know about the event will help guide the discussion and allow for correction of incorrect information they may have heard.

Ask them what questions they have. It is best to provide straightforward and basic answers to their questions and to avoid any details beyond what they are asking. It is also important to tell them that you are always available to listen if they want to talk and will try to answer their questions.

It is OK if you don’t know the answers to their questions, just tell them that. Them knowing that they can ask you anything and that you will be honest with them is very reassuring and provides them comfort.

Be selective about what sources of media they are exposed to. News stories often show repetitive clips of footage that may be disturbing, and social media may disseminate information.

Try prescreening news stories or social media posts that you can look at together. This provides a great opportunity to discuss what is happening and to answer any questions in the moment. Be cognizant of how much exposure you have to media not only for self-protection but to avoid any unintentional exposure to the kids, as well.

Signs that your child or teen may not be coping well with recent tragic events include a change in sleep habits (difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, nightmares), eating more or less than usual, emotional lability, physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches, and behavior changes. Some kids may be clingier or have difficulty focusing on school or activities.

Younger kids may have regression of some of their developmental milestones. It is helpful to try and maintain their usual routines. Make sure they are getting enough sleep, eating a variety of healthy foods, and getting regular physical activity. This is helpful advice for parents and other family members, as well.

Check in with them periodically but try to avoid discussions right before bedtime as this may impact their sleep. If they are still having difficulty coping discuss this with their health care provider and consider working with a counselor.

While you cannot prevent tragedy from striking there are some things you can do on a regular basis to help kids and teens be more resilient. It is critical for a child to have a loving, supportive, responsive adult in their life from the beginning, or as soon as possible. With infants and young children, it is important to have “face time” when an adult makes eye contact, talks to, and responds to the child. We can also help children and teens learn to be resilient.

Empower them to make decisions and focus on their strengths. Model and help them learn positive coping strategies such as talking to someone, listening to music or doing art, journaling, praying, exercising, meditating or taking deep breaths. Practice self-care in ensuring they get proper nutrition, enough sleep and exercise.

Volunteering and contributing to their community can help give them a sense of purpose and control in trying to make their world a better place. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network,, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University are all great resources for more information.

Melissa Mason is a general pediatrician with Journey Pediatrics in Albuquerque. Send questions to


Home » From the newspaper » Communication is key with kids after a tragedy

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

The inaugural New Mexico Asian Film Festival strives to ...
The inaugural festival will take place ... The inaugural festival will take place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at Balloon Fiesta Park. The film festival is part of the two-day ...
Bawarchi Biryanis delivers a solid rendition of its namesake ...
Dining Reviews
Prices at Bawarchi – ... Prices at Bawarchi – the word roughly translates into 'chef' – are comparable to those the Heights' two well-established Indian ...
Gravity Bound Brewing Co. wins its first NM Brewers ...
Gravity Bound Brewing Co. took home ... Gravity Bound Brewing Co. took home the trophy with a hazy IPA. It is the first win for the brewery and it is the ...
'Cave Rescue' looks at the dramatic story of a ...
'Cave Rescue' is currently available for ... 'Cave Rescue' is currently available for rent or purchase on digital platforms.
Woman-owned automotive company to expand to two new locations ...
ABQnews Seeker
Jesse Jackson, the owner of Mango ... Jesse Jackson, the owner of Mango Automotive and "Auto Repair Queen", said she and her c ...
New rotisserie restaurant setting up shop on the West ...
ABQnews Seeker
At Fuego 505, Chef Raul Maestas ... At Fuego 505, Chef Raul Maestas is bringing the fire. Literally. The new restaurant, which is openin ...
Real estate firm building its own industrial space in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Project came out of shortage of ... Project came out of shortage of space in Albuquerque area
Los Ranchos approves short-term freeze on developments
ABQnews Seeker
Move will not affect projects that ... Move will not affect projects that stirred residents to protest in recent weeks
Third New Mexico film partner to be based in ...
ABQnews Seeker
California-based 828 Productions will relocate its ... California-based 828 Productions will relocate its headquarters to Las Cruces.