PHILADELPHIA | After the deadly attacks in France, parents around the world are grappling with questions of how much to share with children and how to talk about the violence. In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Steven Berkowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, offered this advice:
—If children younger than 6 hear of the attacks, tell them that it’s something adults will take care of and that they’re safe.
—Watch or read the news with older children and ask them open-ended questions about their thoughts.
—If teenagers won’t open up, ask them what their peers are saying about the news.
—Explain that although we hear about events like this, they’re still relatively rare.
—For younger children, explain that there are people who do bad things and sometimes there’s no good explanation why.
—Don’t let children younger than 6 watch TV coverage. Repeated coverage can make them think it’s happening over and over again.
—Don’t pass your anxiety on to your children; instead talk about your worries with other adults.
—Don’t offer an answer you don’t believe; it’s OK to say it was a horrific event and everyone is stunned.
—Don’t hesitate to correct children’s misconceptions about the news; explain, for example, that no one religion or its believers are responsible for acts of violence.
—Don’t be surprised if children don’t react as strongly as adults; many children have grown up surrounded by coverage of violent events.