Expert tips: how to talk to your kids about Jessica’s murder and staying safe

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Jessica Ridgeway

Jessica Ridgeway

The Boulder Valley School District shared some expert advice with parents about how to talk to kids about Jessica Ridgeway’s murder as well as the conversation about staying safe.

Denver Public Schools shared the same tips with its parents. It appears below:

The news of Jessica Ridgeway’s death can be extremely unsettling for both children and parents.  As such, we hope to provide parents with information that will help them to talk to their children about Jessica’s death.

The most important thing that any parent can do is to remind the child that they’re safe, that they’re loved, that they are supported, that this is a very horrible thing that happened, but that they’re going to be okay. The first thing kids always ask is why. It is very important not to focus on trying to answer the why, but to listen to their feelings, to bring them back to how they are feeling, and to what we can do to help the child feel better.

When talking with children about death, it is very important to be truthful. With younger children, it is important that they understand the concept of death, and parents should use honest and direct language to help explain what death means.  Finally, it is important to allow children to express their feelings openly and honestly while consistently reminding children that they are safe and that the child who died did not DO anything wrong.

If younger children are unaware of the situation, this event may only prompt you to talk about Stranger Danger- talking to your children about the dangers of interacting with someone they don’t know. It is important not to combine the Stranger Danger conversation with a conversation about her death, as this may scare children unnecessarily that any conversation with a stranger could lead to death.

Parents also need to acknowledge their own feelings. It is a natural reaction to be extra cautious at this time.  However, if as a parent you feel that you are at an extreme level of cautiousness, you might want to seek professional, therapeutic support.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, parents can use the following tips to talk to children about tragic events.

  • Be reassuring.
  • Be a good listener and observer.
  • Monitor the news.
  • Emphasize people’s resiliency.
  • Highlight people’s compassion and humanity.
  • Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible.
  • Spend family time.
  • Do something positive with your children to help others in need.
  • Ask for help if you or your children need it.

For more information on talking with children about death and loss and about age-appropriate reactions and grief reactions of concern, please see the following article.

For additional readings, please see the following links:

From the Boulder Valley School District Counseling Office