What does a parent say when a child asks: How can a dad kill his children?

Paul Banas

This headline gave me shivers. Whenever I see these stories in the paper, it’s hard not to conjure up images of little babies hurt by those meant to be there to protect them. Often, they haunt me for hours or days after reading. And, if can’t handle the stories, how can a child reconcile them.

What do you tell a child who asks how a father can murder his two children and their mother? Child psychologists say the answer depends on how old the child is and how much he is capable of understanding.

“Such a situation confronts a child with a loss of innocence,” said Binyamina Shilo, a senior educational and developmental psychologist. “The older they are, the more this situation frightens them.”

[From What does a parent say when a child asks: How can a dad kill his children? - Haaretz - Israel News ]

As this article points out, kids under six are rarely phased by these stories. They are the stars in their little worlds and outside news is completely inconsequential. Older kids fear for the what the stories mean to their own framework of trust. Psychologists point out that you need to reassure them on several scores. First, that you don’t understand it either. That it is such a rare thing that the person must be completely sick in a way that almost never occurs. Second, that the news media plays these stories up, as they do with child kidnappings, not because they happen all the time, but because they are rare and sensational. Our kids need to be aware that bad things happen, but that they hopefully are very very rare in the safe environments we try to create for them.

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