My nine-year-old niece Zoe sat with Grandma and watched the Sandy Hook tragedy unfold on the evening news. The next morning Zoe refused to watch cartoons. Rather, she opted to watch videos on her phone. And while I was having my morning coffee, she made a point to tell me that she didn’t sleep well and fell out of the bed during the night.
That was my subtle hint to dig a little deeper. I began asking her a few questions and it became obvious that Zoe had a few fears to overcome. We took turns asking and answering questions for one another.
At the tender of age nine, Zoe had no clue that the shooting had taken place in another state. In fact, she had assumed that Sandy Hook might have been a community nearby. She said she watched the television looking for someone she might know. I asked her if any of the photos on television upset her. She looked down for a second and answered, “The one where the parents were crying.”
As parents, we want to be informed of what is going on in our country but at the same time we also need to be sensitive to the amount of time, tragic details and photographs we expose our children to.
And we must keep in mind that children view life from their perspective. And to them, their perspective is their reality.
Although children might be quiet and appear to be unaware or unconcerned as to what is going on, often they are processing their fears and grief in silence.
Grief In Children
Children become easily distracted and have difficulty following through on the simplest of tasks when they are grieving or upset. They usually grieve in short spurts and grieve when parents or other adults are not around. Their initial grief can be very strong and the child might cry loudly or become hysterical.
As adults, it is important how we teach our children to process their fears and grief as they are learning lifelong coping skills. When children learn to effectively work through particular fears and losses, they gain self confidence as they realize they can cope with life’s challenges.
Children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.