How to talk to kids when bad things happen

It seems like every time I turn on the news, it’s bad. As an adult, it’s hard for me to understand why all this bad stuff is going on. Trying to talk to my kids about them or trying to explain them to my kids seems like an impossible task. Today I want to share how to talk to your kids when bad things happen.

A picture of a dad holding his daughter. he is wearing a backwards cap and is standing in a field. They both have big smiles on their faces. Above th picture are the words: How to talk to kids when bad things happen. Below the picture are the words:

As a parent, I want to protect my child from all forms of evil but I don’t want to shield them to the point they don’t know how to process these sorts of events.

If you’re having a hard time navigating this subject then I hope this blog can help you.

Before we try and talk to our kids about the bad things happening all around us, there are a few ways we can protect our children.

2 ways we can protect our children

Set limits

The best way we can protect our children from everything going on around us is by limiting what we watch and what we talk about.

1. In what you watch

Due to the amount of bad news and the details news outlets tell the news, we stopped watching the news about a year ago. We still read the highlights and know what is going on, but we stopped watching the news. Not just for ourselves but our kids.

I believe that it’s important to be informed. But being informed does not mean that we need to watch every minute of a news report or read every opinion of an event.

When something happens, I usually find a reputable news source and read the article about the event. I try to find a balanced piece that reflects many angles to what happened.

With 24-hour news channels, it’s easy to take a story and see every single sad story, gory detail and any piece of news we want. But as viewers, we don’t need to watch every one of these things to get a picture of what happened.

By limiting what we watch, we can control what we know.

2. In what you talk about

When bad things happen, it’s easy to talk about the events everywhere we are. I think talking about events is good. We should not shy away from it. But I think we can limit the amount we talk about.

When sharing things with our kids, they don’t need to know every detail. We can just tell them the basics and then answer questions they may have.

How to talk to kids when bad things happen

As a parent, I have learned that I can try and protect my kids from bad things around them, but I can’t keep everything away from them. Life is full of bad and hard things.

So, knowing that we can’t keep all harm away from our kids, we can do these 8 things when we talk to kids when bad things happen.

1. Be prepared

I am sometimes niece and think, if we don’t talk about events at home then they won’t know what’s going on.

I know, naive!

My children go to public school. So news items we might not discuss at home may be discussed in the classroom or on the playground.

They will be exposed

Even if you homeschool your kids, unless your children live in a bunker and have no contact with media or other people, then they will be exposed to stories about bad things happening.

As parents, it’s important to be ready for hard conversations. Knowing that our kids may have questions about world events helps us be ready for those conversations.

2. Know your child

Each child is different. My kids are all 3 years apart. So when we talk to our 8 8-year-old tell her things in a way she understands vs how we would talk about the same events to my 5-year-old or 2 years old.

Knowing our kids guides parents in how much to let them watch and what to talk about.

My eldest daughter has some anxiety. We are not 100% sure of all her anxiety triggers. Due to that, we don’t always go into specific details about events and always watch the way she responds.

She is the type that may not be scared when we tell her, but she may think about something for a week, a month and show symptoms later due to what she heard earlier. This makes our job s bit harder. But, we know this about our daughter and it helps us when we do talk to her about events.

Knowing our daughter means that we still follow the advice below, but then we watch her. We know she takes a while to process and may not show signs of anxiety right away, but she may show signs of anxiety later on that are related to something we talked about earlier.

Your kids may be different. The best thing you can do before you talk to your child is to know them. You are the best judge of what your child can understand and what they are ready for.

3. Trust yourself

You know your child better than anybody else. You know what you have watched as a family, what you have talked about and how they deal with fear and other situations.

The best way you can talk to your child is to trust your instincts about who they are and what they are ready for.

4. Be honest

I have a general rule with my kids: always tell the truth. I try as best as I can to not lie to my children.

When something happens that they need to know about, I sit them down and tell them.

For example, my cousin recently died of cancer. As soon as I knew and I knew my husband and other family members knew, I told the kids. I called my 8-year-old and 5-year-old and I sat them down. As soon as they sat down I said: Do you remember my Cousin and how we have been praying for him because he is sick? (Wait for answer) He died today and is now with Jesus.

I try not to beat around the bush or tell them more than they need to know.

This does not mean I tell them everything. But, when they do ask questions, I answer them as best I can.

Unless they ask specific questions, there is no reason to tell them more or even talk about it further.

5. Answer all questions

I don’t know about you, but my kids are really inquisitive. If there is something they want to know, they ask. When they do ask us questions, we answer them to the best of our ability. If we don’t know the answer, then we find it.

Again, kids don’t need to know every specific detail so be sure to only answer what your kids are asking.

This reminds me of a clip from the west wing.

6. Share your feelings

When you talk to kids when bad things happen, it’s ok to be sad and even afraid. As adults, it’s important to express those feelings and to not shy away from them.

By expressing our feelings we are teaching our kids that’s ok to have feelings and we teach them how to express them.

When kids see us afraid or sad they know they are not alone and may have an easier time sharing how they feel.

Kids may not know what fear feels like or what sadness looks like. By talking about feelings and expressing them openly, then kids learn what their feeling are and that it’s ok to express them.

7. Direct them to God’s word

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know why something happens or even how to deal with it.

The best thing I can do it to lead my kids to someone who does have all the answers.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.” Isaiah‬ ‭55:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

To get some more guidance as to what to say, read the following posts

Why do bad things happen to good people

Where is God in times of trouble

8. Pray

When bad things happen, it’s important for us to show our kids how we deal with our questions, fear etc. For me, I process everything through prayer.

So, when my kids come to me with any issue, we pray about it.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV ‬‬

In the comments below please share how you talk to your kids when bad things happen.

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