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Natural catastrophes, accidents and, in these times, the reality of violence and terrorism are situations that demand an immediate response from adults to the reactions that these realities can unleash in children and offer them protection.
How can we talk to a 3- to 6-year-old child about all this news that tells of catastrophes and dramatic events?
We must bear in mind that 3- to 6-year-olds believe that death is a temporary and reversible state. They understand that the deceased is sleeping, therefore he continues to breathe and will wake up at some point. Also, they believe that just by thinking things happen. Thus, if they think that something bad happens to someone and this really happens, the child will believe that it has happened because he has wanted it to.
In this age group they interpret the world and the things that adults explain to them literally.
Each child is different and has their way of reacting. Reactions of fear, sadness, and anxiety vary. They are not equal to that of adults and neither are they the same between those of one child and another. Reactions such as:
- They will talk more than usual, be more agitated or do not speak at all because they have difficulties expressing what is bothering them.
- Sometimes they will show their pain through play.
- They will feel generalized fear such as being alone, fear of sleeping or of a specific animal.
- Concern about the possible loss of another known person.
- They are not sure who will take care of them or take them to school
- They lose autonomy and may present regressions in their behavior, such as wetting the bed, not eating alone, not knowing how to dress, etc.
- They may suffer sleep disturbances such as having nightmares, waking up agitated, not wanting to go to sleep alone.
Faced with these behaviors, adults must follow the scheme of containing, calming, informing, normalizing and comforting.
Adults can come to think that children are not interested in the news and do not pay attention to them. But, contrary to what we think, children attend, learn and remember with great emphasis what they see on the screen. Unlike movies or entertainment shows, news is real.
To ease children's fears about the news, parents can:
- Act as 'socialization agents', that is, explain to children the images and comments that appear on the small screen and the dimensions of what happened.
- Offer the truth but only the truth that a child should know. Be as truthful and as less explicit as possible. There is no need to go into details that the child is not interested in.
- Put the news in a correct context. Showing that certain events are isolated or explaining that some events are related to others helps children understand what they see.
- Watch the news with the children to filter inappropriate news.
- Anticipation and avoidance of shows that are not appropriate for the child's developmental level.
- Use other means with less disturbing images to transmit the news.
You can read more articles similar to How to explain a catastrophe to children aged 3 to 6, in the category of Dialogue and communication on site.