HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Like many parents, Heidi Santistevan struggled with how to talk to her children, ages 10 and 16, about the Paris terror attacks.
“You can’t find the right words to explain that,” she said. “It’s hard because the kids are confused.”
Santistevan says she has limited her children’s exposure by not allowing them to watch the news.
Psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw of the “Dr. Phil” show advises parents to turn off the television entirely around kids ages 5 and younger.
For elementary school-aged children, he says kids should have limited exposure.
For those with older kids, if they do watch coverage of the attacks, McGraw says “you don’t want to let your children watch this without you there with them.”
“They’re gonna flip around. They’re gonna see this on ten different channels. And they can think it happened ten different times, particularly if they are very young,” he said.
McGraw suggests asking your kids what they know, instead of telling them what you know and reassuring them that they are safe.
“I think the thing you have to do is say, ‘In America, we spend a lot of time and effort to keep you safe and that what keeps us safe is that we are all aware,’ ” he said.
Experts caution that parents not overload kids with facts, nor dismiss their feelings.
Also, experts suggest helping kids find ways to express themselves and recommend that parents lead by example.
“They’re more likely to ask questions while you’re shooting baskets or walking the dog or doing something where they are not quite so much on the hot spot,” McGraw said.
A father with a 14-year-old daughter says she informed him of the terrorist attacks.
“My daughter is very intelligent and one thing that I don’t do with my son or my daughter is if they have an intelligent question, I’m going to give them an intelligent answer,” he said.
Finally, for those whose children haven’t broached the issue, experts agree that’s OK too.