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Dealing with Sensitive News

Start a discussion. You could ask, "What do you think about that story?" "Did you understand what we just read?" or "it was terrible to read about the fire burning up that house."

Be honest and reassuring while reinforcing safety messages. If your child asks, "Could our house burn down, too?" answer truthfully, but also reassure your child that you take all the precautions to reduce such a risk. Explain to him, for example, the fire safety precautions your family takes, such as keeping fresh batteries in the smoke detectors. Show him how to use the fire extinguishers and how to get out of the house if it was burning. You could also reinforce similar safety measures about break-ins, medical emergencies, or natural disasters, while remaining reassuring.

Emphasize positive aspects of a tragic event. Whether children hear about a major gas line explosion, an earthquake, or a flood, it's important they hear about how well the public, the police, emergency medical, and fire departments respond as well. Even more important, try to emphasize the good stories that come out of every natural disaster–such as how individuals help each other in times of need. Use these stories to prepare your own home for natural disasters, to check up on your emergency supply kits, etc.

Use the discussion as a teaching tool to teach values. What may start as an uncomfortable discussion of a scandalous event can turn into an opportunity for you to teach and reinforce the values you believe are important in your home. Discussing these topics that arise from reading the newspaper also become opportunities for character building lessons. The consequences of breaking laws become real to children. They also see how our own actions often effect those we love.

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