Tips on Talking to Children About Tragedies

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Source: Hospice of Santa Barbara

In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting on Sunday night, Hospice of Santa Barbara believes that the most important service they could provide locally is to provide guidance about how parents and teachers can speak to children about the senseless violence.

“In times like these, it’s more important than ever that we don’t shut down and desensitize ourselves to horrific unacceptable acts of violence,” said David Selberg, CEO of Hospice of Santa Barbara. “It is especially important that kids are allowed to process and express their feelings and not repress them.”

Hospice of Santa Barbara is available for anyone struggling to understand this tragedy for themselves or to help assist in explain it to their children.

Here are some tips provided by the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) at USC that can be incredibly helpful when talking to your child about what they’ve seen in the news:

  • Be honest. Don’t mislead your children or give them false information “for their own good.” The details that you give should correspond to how old your child is. The older they are, the more details they may need to properly cope with or understand the situation. You may want to consider temporarily shutting off the Internet and TV, lest they unnecessarily see graphic images of the incident.
  • Let your kids know that their feelings are normal. They might feel helpless now; but this can give a way for you to teach your child about the importance of safety, tolerance, and acceptance, all of which are key to a more peaceful world.
  • There is no justification for the shooter’s violent actions, period. What you can tell your child is that it is never okay to act violently or take out one’s anger in this manner, and that all lives are precious.  
  • Remember that it is okay for your child to ask questions; staying silent won’t make the problem disappear. The most important thing you can do is to make your child feel safe, reassured, understood, and loved.
  • If you find that your child is upset for several days and unable to shake their fear, or if he/she is having trouble in school or at home, consider consulting with Hospice of Santa Barbara for possible counseling or other assistance.

For more advice from the NCSCB, go to  To learn more about Hospice of Santa Barbara, call at 805.563.8820 or visit  

Hospice of Santa Barbara offers counseling services for children and their families at no cost. But the organization also urge parents to begin the healing process at home, as necessary, by speaking to their children honestly and thoughtfully about the Las Vegas tragedy.

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Roger Oct 04, 2017 10:17 PM
Tips on Talking to Children About Tragedies

The day JFK was shot my mom picked me up at school and told me what happened on the way home she was crying that day November the 22nd 1963...

a-1576032672 Oct 03, 2017 08:36 PM
Tips on Talking to Children About Tragedies

Children are much more intelligent and understanding that most adults give them credit for. Just tell them that, unfortunately, there are some very mean, ugly and horrible people on earth and that some of them will do such horrible things and that all together we are working hard to keep them from committing such ugly repulsive acts.

420722 Oct 03, 2017 08:10 PM
Tips on Talking to Children About Tragedies

Yep RLJ. My child is young and we had a talk about this shooting. I told her everything and let her watch the news with me. No sense in lying to our children about anything they will grow up and find out anyway.

RLJ Oct 03, 2017 08:01 PM
Tips on Talking to Children About Tragedies

It is best that children learn early that life can be short and brutal. There are no guarantees in life. As Woody Allen said, "God laughs when you make plans".

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