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World events that can't be ignored can challenge parents

It's been a tough week in the world. News about the attacks in Paris and elsewhere have been splashed across the headlines and television, and sparked displays of community reaction, very possibly right down at the level of individual households around College Station and the rest of Texas.

This presents unique issues for parents with young children, and those challenges can become even greater in circumstances where parents are divorced. When tough circumstances present themselves, individuals react differently. Parents who are together may be in a position to develop a united approach for how to speak to the children about such things. But parents who are apart might not.

Where friction may already exist around issues of child custody and visitation, how can parents find common ground and address the fears and concerns that children might be feeling right now? One expert offers a few thoughts on the subject we feel are worth sharing.

Retired Purdue University professor Judith A. Myers-Walls has studied how kids react to political violence. She says the biggest thing parents should watch out for is sliding into a cycle of silence. This happens when events are thought to be so upsetting that adults don't talk about them. That leaves the children feeling they can't talk about them, either.

To avoid the cycle, Myers-Walls suggests parents take an approach of cautious openness. Chances are good that even children in elementary school have heard about what has been going on. Certainly, older children are aware. Rather than remain silent, she recommends parents probe gently to find out what they may know. Any further discussion can be based on how the children reply.

Myers-Walls says it's important to remember that what happened occurred a long distance away and involved relatively few people. Parents can reinforce that, at home, life's routine is mostly the same, children are safe and there are a lot of adults they can rely on for reassurance.

Appropriateness of response is something that children learn from their elders, so it's important for them to receive consistency of message from the adults who are important in their lives.

Source: The Washington Post, "When terror strikes, here’s what you should tell children," Lyndsey Layton, Nov. 16, 2015

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