— Blog

Using Preventive Teaching to talk with your children about national tragedies

Using Preventive Teaching to talk with your children about national tragedies

There’s a downside to living in a constantly connected world—sometimes that constantly connected world means seeing things you didn’t want to see.

On August 26, TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward were murdered on live TV. In the following hours, thousands of people were bombarded with this atrocious act on social media (BBC: How Thousands Watched Murder Video by Mistake). Seeing something like that is difficult enough for an adult to see, but what happens when a child sees something they’re not equipped to understand? How are they to process it?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where sick men and woman are going to commit atrocities and our children are going to see or hear about those heinous acts and the last thing we want is to our children to live in fear of what could happen to them.

One of the best things you can do to help your child process what they’ve seen, it to talk about it. But how?

Helping your children work through a national tragedy isn’t always easy. It’s hard to let them know that they don’t need to live in fear. Or, that most people are good and what they saw was the work of one sick person. Especially when the child is young. How much do you say? How do you reassure them?

When you use the steps of Preventive Teaching it takes away some of the uncertainty of approaching the topic. Using the steps of Preventive Teaching you’re able to tailor your conversation to the understanding level of your child by breaking it up into small pieces. Giving your children too much information can have the opposite effect and make them more nervous. A good rule of thumb is to frankly answer the questions your child has without volunteering more information.


Using the steps of Preventive Teaching, your conversation would look something like this.

    I know you just saw blank on TV and that it upset you. It upset mommy too. (Step 1: Start with a positive empathy statement.) When you see something on TV that upsets you, I want you to come and talk to daddy or I. (Step 2: Describe what you want.) Talking to mommy or daddy about what you saw will make what you saw less scary and I know you don’t want to be afraid (Step 3: Give a meaningful reason of why the new behavior is important for your child.) Let’s practicing coming to mommy and telling me what you saw. (Step 4: Practice the expected behavior). You did a good job of telling mommy exactly why what you saw upset you. Thank you. (Step 5: Point out the positive in the practice). I want you to practice a few more times, but this time. Why don’t you practice going to daddy? (Step 6: Continue to practice at least 4 times).

Now, it may seem kind of like overkill to practice all those times—especially when the child is older, but practice is what makes it stick.