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It is so hard to know how to react to tragedies, and unfortunately in our community we’ve had a week filled with the need for tough conversations about suicide, school threats, and ultimately, mental health.  

As parents, we feel the weight of these conversations and know that what we say to our children matters.  As you talk to your kids about these hard topics, I want you to remember these truths: 

  • It’s okay to not have all the answers.  If your child asks a question you don’t know how to answer, validate that it’s a good question and tell them that you are going to think about it and get back to them.  Seek out support from the resources below for answers, or reach out to a professional.
  • It’s okay to show emotion.  Sharing that you are sad, scared, or confused normalizes these emotions, which helps children feel less alone when they also experience those emotions.  
  • Validate, validate, validate.  If your child shares any emotions, questions, or curiosities, validate them.  Tell that you understand why they’re angry and give them ideas of what they can do to work through that anger (write a letter, draw a picture, talk about it, etc.) 
  • Thank them for sharing with you.  The events of this week highlight the need for open and safe conversations with our children about hard topics.  
  • Use this as an opportunity to talk about mental health.  Talking about feeling sad, feeling depressed, or suicide does not increase these tough thoughts and emotions in our children.  In fact, talking about these things decreases the stigma around it, creates safety, and ensures that your child feels less alone if they ever feel that way themselves.  
  • Be aware of the signs of Traumatic Stress in Children.  Check out the guides below, which show signs of traumatic stress by age range.  If you see these signs, know that your child needs extra support from you, and possibly from a professional.

Check out the links below for more resources:

Suicide Resources:

Talking to your Child About Suicide

Why You Should Talk to Kids About Suicide

After a Suicide: An Activity Book for Grieving Kids

Experts explain how to talk about suicide with kids by age

Trauma Resources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Talking To Children About Hard things

School Threat Resources:

Talking with Children About School Threats

Talking to Children about Mental Health Resources:

Mental Health for Kids

Books for Kids of All ages about Mental Health

Must-Read Books to Help Kids Understand Their Emotional and Mental Health

Books For Parents of Kids with Depression

12 Children’s Books That Help Explain Tragedies and Death

Books That Offer Insight About Those Who Are Suffering