Expert offers advice for talking to kids about Las Vegas tragedy

Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 6:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - As we all process the tragic reality of what happened late Sunday night in Las Vegas, it can be hard to hide our children from the headlines and extensive news coverage.

Dr. Mark Weiss, a marriage and family therapist, said when it comes to exposing your child to what is on television, less is more.

"It's still a discipline for parents to monitor what they are having their children see as much as possible," Dr. Weiss said. "The more free you are with letting your kids watching anything, the more you actually have to do to help them calm down."

The first thing you need to do is assess the maturity of your child in order to determine when they begin comprehending what is happening. Then, keep the conversation simple.

"Oftentimes, one of the problems will be complexing it too much," he said. "He's gone, he's not going to be coming back, whether it be he's in heaven or he's at rest now."

As you talk about different situations, you can judge by your child's reaction their ability to recognize different stages of tragedy.

"Physical contact is very, very important. To be able to hold your child to give them a sense of safety and comfort--that this happened there, it's not happening here and we're safe," Dr. Weiss explained.

Dr. Weiss said your ability to listen is more important than anything you say.

"Letting your children know you understand what they are saying does a great deal to strengthen their bond and create more of a sense of safety," he added.

Dr. Weiss also said as your children get older, the discussion turns to safety and talking about how they would react if they were ever in a similar situation.

Just as Dr. Weiss suggested, Mayo Clinic also believes your child's age will affect how he or she processes information about a tragedy. Mayo Clinic offers the following tips for different ages:

  • Preschool children. Get down to your child's eye level. Speak in a calm and gentle voice using words your child understands. Explain what happened and how it might affect your child. For example, after a severe storm you might say that a tree fell on electrical wires and now the lights don't work. Share steps that are being taken to keep your child safe and give hugs.
  • Elementary and early middle school children. Children in this age range might have more questions about whether they're truly safe. They might need help separating fantasy from reality.
  • Upper middle school and high school children. Older children will want more information about the tragedy and recovery efforts. They're more likely to have strong opinions about the causes, as well as suggestions about how to prevent future tragedies and a desire to help those affected.

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