How to Talk to Your Kids About Scary Situations

In the last two weeks, Jewish Community Centers, or JCCs, across the country have been targeted with bomb threats. While these events have, thankfully, turned out to be hoaxes, they are scary, plain and simple. How do we talk to our children and support each other through these events? As parents and educators who work with children, we can continue to reassure our kids--and each other--that we'll be there to protect them and do what we can to keep them safe.

We've pulled together a short list of links and resources that parents may find helpful in discussions with their children. 

Talking to Your Kids

The Child Mind Institute recommends parents do the following after a frightening incident like a tragedy or an evacuation:
  • Break the news
  • Take the cues from your child
  • Model calm
  • Be reassuring
  • Help children express their feelings
  • Be developmentally appropriate
For information about developmentally appropriate guidelines for talking school safety with your children, use the following guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
  • Young children need brief simple information that should be balanced with reassurance. 
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children can handle the information parents have about the school's safety plan.
  • Upper middle school and high school students may have strong and varying opinions about causes of violence in school and society. Parents should stress the role that students have in maintaining safe schools.




Planning and Being Prepared

The American Academy of Pediatrics has several comprehensive guides for parents:

Consider also developing a secret code with your children. In a blog post about safety in crowds and during marches and large gatherings with kids, blogger Jenn Sutherland-Miller writes:

"Once in awhile we find ourselves in a situation where we want our kids to listen and act immediately. It’s not the time for discussion, or questions, or a debate, or a demand for the reason why. It’s time to shut up and do what Mom or Dad says. We call these “grasshopper” moments. Grasshopper was our first secret code word...if they are in danger, or need us to listen to them for a health and safety alert, they can holler, or whisper, “Grasshopper!” and we’ll drop everything and follow them without question."


37 Techniques to Calm an Anxious Child via HuffPost Parents
Why I Refuse to Be Afraid of the 16 Bomb Threats Made to JCCs Across the Country via Kveller

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