How To Talk To Kids About Tragic Events

With so many negative things happening in the world, many parents wonder how to handle talking to their children about tragic events, whether it occurs on the national scale or within the family. Here are some general guidelines to consider:
Be Age-Appropriate
A general guideline is to avoid introducing these topics to children under the age of eight. Any younger and a child will struggle to understand the event. Keep in mind your child’s developmental level too. Even if they may be older than eight years old, do they demonstrate the emotional maturity to handle news like this? If not, hold off on sharing this information if possible.
As they get older consider carefully how much information they need. It is usually best that you share information with them directly, as opposed to giving them something to read or watch. Images can be particularly upsetting for children and it is recommended in most cases that children not be exposed to images.
Validate Emotions
Sometimes our children wind up exposed to tragic events no matter how hard we try to protect them. They may have experienced a trauma first-hand or overheard something at school. If your child does bring up one of these topics, focus on validating any feelings your child may express and help them label their feelings. When kids are exposed to a tragic event, they can sometimes display unusual reactions due to discomfort (e.g., laughing, acting out). Remind them that there is no right or wrong way to respond to these types of things.
After validating how your child feels, emphasize to them that these events are very rare and not something they need to worry about on a daily basis. It can be helpful to tell you child that this is an “adult worry” and you are in charge of making sure this does not happen. In these moments, it can be tempting to go over safety procedures with your child (e.g., what do to when approached by a stranger). This is usually not the time for this information and you are better off presenting this information when not discussing an actual event that occurred.
Limit It
Keep an eye on the news. Many parents do not think twice about having the news on while they are preparing dinner or getting their children ready for school. However, the news is not usually appropriate for children. It is good for children to know about world and local events, but find a way to give them this information on your own terms. The news often creates the impression that tragic events are common and we want to remind kids that these events are exceptionally rare.
If your child is struggling to cope with a traumatic event or you are unsure about how to help them, please consider calling us at 612-470-4099 or emailing us at

What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is translated from the Pali word sati and means “to remember.” Mindfulness includes a series of techniques designed to help individuals achieve a mental state that focuses on one’s awareness of themselves and their surroundings. Mindfulness can be defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Often we are stuck thinking about the past or future and forget to bring our awareness to the present moment. It is important to clarify that mindfulness is not the absence of thought. Research tells us that trying to stop thoughts is not effective and tends to backfire. Instead, we can use mindfulness techniques to give us more ways of handling the thoughts we do have. For many people, mindfulness practice is preferable over silent meditation. I have had many clients report that unguided meditations result in an increase in their amount of worry or depressive thoughts.

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is typically very guided and focuses on teaching specific techniques to reduce stress. Some of the most popular techniques include learning to do a body scan, noting thoughts and bringing awareness to daily sensory experiences, such as eating. One of the first techniques often taught in MBSR is called a body scan. A body scan is used to improve one’s awareness of physical sensations and can be helpful for processing uncomfortable emotions.

Noting is a technique used to acknowledge a thought without reacting to it. When we experience distressing thoughts and emotions, our tendency is push them away. Unfortunately, this only makes us think about those thoughts more. Noting, as well as several other techniques, can help depressive, angry, and anxious thoughts. MBSR takes practice, but it is a cheap, easy, and low-risk activity for reducing negative thoughts and feelings.

Research Support

There is a large body of research demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness. For example, individuals who participated in a MBSR program reported less life stress compared to a control group. Several studies have looked at the effect of mindfulness on chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and cancer. Results show an improvement in psychological functioning, including decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms, and a decrease in physical health symptoms. Researchers claim that mindfulness improves emotional regulation and responses to stressful situations. In a sample of couples, researchers found that individuals with higher mindfulness reported more positive perceptions of their partner and relationship following a conflict discussion.

Although most of the research has been done with adults, studies are starting to explore mindfulness practice in children. Mindfulness curriculums for children have been found to reduce children’s level of cortisol (a hormone related to stress), improve their cognitive control, reduce their symptoms of depression, and improve their social skills (greater peer acceptance, empathy, and perspective-taking).

Mindfulness Classes

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, consider signing up for one of our MBSR classes. They are drop-in based and we have specific classes for adults and children. If you would like more information, please call us at 612-470-4099.