Tips for Parents: Talking With Your Children About Traumatic World Events

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by Christa Green, Clinical Social Work Associate

A silhouette of a parent talking to their child on a park bench. This could symbolize talking with your child about traumatic events. Contact a trauma therapist in Hillsboro, OR to learn more about trauma therapy in Hillsboro, OR and how online therapy in Portland, OR can help today.

“The things that are happening today are things I thought were only in history books”

“The things that are happening today are things I thought were only in history books.” This astute comment came from one of my young clients who felt dizzied by the conflict brought up in his elementary school setting–conversations about our political climate, COVID, the war in Ukraine, school shootings, and conflict in Gaza, to name a few. What used to feel safe within the bindings of our history books has escaped the pages and become today’s reality. The news feels like a constant storm of conflict and confusion. In light of this, how do we talk with children about traumatic events

In my first few years after graduate school, I worked as a Crisis Child and Family Therapist. It was my role to support youth between the ages of five and eighteen and their families through crisis situations and traumatic events. I focused my efforts on mitigating PTSD and instilling protective factors by teaching adaptive coping mechanisms and empowering parents to support their children. In hopes of sharing these protective factors with your children, I will share what I learned about traumatic events to provide tips for talking with your children about traumatic world events. In order to remember these pointers in the moment of a conversation opportunity, I will use the acronym “TALK” as a reminder to (T)alk with your children using (A)ge-appropriate information while (L)eading by example and (K)eeping hope. 

T – Talk

While this first point might seem obvious, it is necessary. I have been surprised to learn how many of my adult peers (including myself) never had a “birds and bees” conversation with their parents. This was not due to parental neglect, but perhaps a parental discomfort and avoidance of that which is hard to address. Talking with your children about traumatic world events might seem like a similarly daunting task. While avoidance is a tempting escape, it is by no means effective. Children are incredibly perceptive and encounter traumatic world news in schools and on social media on a daily basis. Parents have the opportunity to speak perspectives into these tragic topics because while we cannot change the story, we can impact perspectives on the story. 

From a mental health perspective, one of the main protective factors against PTSD is a strong system of support. Parents are the key players in a child’s support system. With a safe and attuned parent, children can better manage the weight of traumatic world events. Parents, talk with your children, gently exploring your child’s current understanding of what is happening in the world and the resulting thoughts, feelings, and impacts on their daily lives. 

A – Age-Appropriate Information

A child holds their parents hands as they walk across a field on a sunny day. Learn how a trauma therapist in Hillsboro, OR can help you cope with traumatic events in the world. Search for a christian counselor in Hillsboro, OR or online therapy in Portland, OR today.

Talk to your child using age-appropriate information while not hiding the truth. You may wonder what information to share, yet it is important to remember that you are the expert on your own children. Do not take for granted the instinctual wisdom that has helped you raise and know your child. Trust your gut. 

Likewise, while we cannot hide the truth of traumatic world events, we can still limit the frequency and intensity of exposure to traumatic world news. This might mean turning off the TV, phones, or radio and exchanging that time with time together such as initiating a family game night, building blanket forts, time outside together, or dance parties to music. It is important that children get moments to be children and to feel secure, and we can provide opportunities for these moments by initiating the fun. Parents provide information to reduce the unknowns using measured and shrewd language.

L – Lead by Example

This might be one of the most challenging aspects because traumatic world events are equally unnerving and anxiety-inducing to parents. Children are sponges that soak up not just information, but also implicit emotional content. If you as the parent are feeling fearful about the world’s events, the child will more than likely observe and replicate this fear. Yet, we can lead by example by openly and calmly acknowledging the wrong that is happening all around us. We can model a healthy response, naming emotions it may bring up, and methods we use to manage our own difficult emotional reactions to traumatic world events. Model taking a step back, breathing, praying, re-centering yourself, and resuming conversation when you are calm. Remind them that you love them and will continue to do everything in your power to keep them safe. silhouette

K – Keep Hope

As a child and family crisis therapist, mitigating PTSD through teaching coping methods and empowering parents to support their children well was my main aim, yet through my years of working I learned that my primary role was to be the “hope keeper.” When all seemed bleak and it felt like there was no chance of positive change, I clung to hope, reminding myself and the families that there is always hope. 

A mother hugs their daughter while sitting on the edge of a bed. This could represent offering support for people and how a trauma therapist in Hillsboro, OR can offer support. Learn more about trauma therapy in Hillsboro, OR by searching for online therapy in Portland, OR today.

Similarly, in a meta-analysis summary of research articles reviewing the protective factors against PTSD, hope was identified as a main factor causing an inverse correlation. That is, the more hope an individual has, the less likely they are to have PTSD. In light of this, parents, keep hope that good will prevail.

Hebrews 6:19-20 encourages us with the reminder that “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable (NASB).” Hope is the anchor of our soul. While we grieve the traumatic events of this world, we need not fret since we are anchored in hope. In the clamor and crashing waves of today’s traumatic world events, remember where your anchor lies and encourage your children in this.

“Hope is the anchor of the soul.”

(T)alk with your children using

(A)ge-appropriate information while

(L)eading by example and

(K)eeping hope.

Consider Working with A Trauma Therapist in Hillsboro, OR for Christian Counseling

Our Clackamas and Beaverton-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:

  1. Learn about our therapy team in Beaverton and our caring counselors in Clackamas
  2. Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
  3. Feel more connected to the important people in your life

Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon

If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, Hillsboro, or Beaverton, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinicsChristian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatmentanxiety therapytrauma therapy and PTSD treatmentrelationship issuesmarriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!

Christa Green, Clinical Social Worker

About the Author

Christa Green is a Clinical Social Worker Associate with an educational background from George Fox’s Master of Social Work program and Hillsdale College’s Bachelor of Psychology program. Alongside her role as a mental health counselor, she is a deacon of youth ministries at her church, mom, and wife. Read more about her philosophy and background here.

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