When horrific events like the Orlando massacre occur, parents are often left wondering how to address such difficult topics with their children, especially when they themselves aren’t positive their own family is safe.
Psychologist Dr. Janet Taylor said above all else, acknowledge your own fear and uncertainty with them, but focus the conversation on the positives by stressing the importance of promoting love and tolerance.
“You have to tap into your own feelings,” Taylor said on ABC News' “Good Morning America” today. “You may feel scared, anxious, mad, angry -- all of those are normal after a traumatic event like this and it’s difficult.”
She explained taking a child's age into consideration with how to frame the discussion.
“Certainly between the ages of 5 to 7, they may see things and hear things and you can acknowledge that there are bad things that happened, but I think as parents we can frame the discussion as, ‘It was bad, but let’s talk about what’s good,’” Taylor said. “Let’s talk about how to love, let’s talk about how I love you, let’s talk about how to be kind to other people, and certainly embrace and tolerate people who are different."
“It’s an opportunity to really focus on what we need, which is more love and more tolerance, and not hate within our households and certainly within our communities,” she added.
Taylor acknowledged how difficult it can be to address these situations when the parents are also feeling vulnerable, but continuing to live our daily lives is the only way to regain power.
“There’s that feeling and that thought that this could be me, and could I still go shopping? To the movies? And the answer is yes, you have to,” she said. “The point of terrorism is primarily to inflict harm, but it’s also psychological, to make you think that you’re not safe and you are more vulnerable. We have to take back that power and do what we do every day.”
She also stressed the importance of reminding your children of activities they already do in their normal, daily lives to keep safe.
“We lock our doors, we put on seatbelts,” Taylor said of helpful reminders. “It’s access to safe phone numbers, who you can go to if you have a problem if your kids are old enough.”
Taylor suggested implementing “what if” situations if your kids are ages 5 to 12.
“Whatever it takes for you to feel safe, you can implement that with your kids,” she said.
Face time and direct contact with hugs and discussions over the dinner table are also extremely important, she said.
“At the end of the day, life is uncertain, but love is certain,” Taylor said.