There comes a point in a child’s life when his fears of monsters and scary dreams turn into fears that reflect the reality of the world. It can come as a great shock to a child to realize that there is such a thing as death and that tragedies of all kinds are a part of our human experience.

While we can comfort a child and reassure him that there is no monster under his bed or that he was just having a bad dream, we can’t do that with realistic fears.

Children already feel helpless because there is so much they don’t know about the world. They form mistaken ideas about situations being dangerous when they aren’t. Young children can watch a rerun on the news and think the event is happening again. They may hear of a tragedy in another country which is far away but may not understand the concept of distance so it feels far more threatening than it really is.

What do we, as adults, do with our own fears so that we aren’t riddled with terrifying thoughts? We take the precautions that we need to keep ourselves safe. We have enough life experience to draw from and to form rational thoughts. When we do this, we can forget about the possibilities of danger and find some peace to live our lives.

How can we help our children? We can explain that tragedies and accidents rarely happen and how unlikely it is that these awful things would happen to them. This is important information for a child.

Never lie to a child. Children need to trust you, so sugar coating the truth doesn’t help. If you deny that something has happened or isn’t that bad and they discover otherwise, they won’t trust you. Likewise, giving too much information can be devastating to a child. It is best to present the facts briefly and then let a child guide you. Answer their questions with tenderness and sensitivity.

Young children may seem unaffected by sad or upsetting news as they go off and play, that is how their immaturity protects them. Older children and teens often take more seriously than parents the threats to our lives and our world from pollution, destruction of the environment, and other humanly created evils. Because of this, they may feel overwhelmed with emotion.

Words that are designed to try to make a person feel better when they are experiencing strong emotions, rarely land well. It is often better to give your calm and loving presence with no words.

LIFE Seminars has two books available, Sidestepping the Power Struggle and The Parent Child Connection. See lifeseminars.com.