So far in 2020, there have been vivid news stories about the possibility of going to war, the Coronavirus, the presidential election, and many more scary events. When a topic of a certain magnitude is broadcast on the news, online, and in newspapers for days on end, it can cause unnecessary worry and stress for children of any age. In fact, these topics can be nerve-wracking for adults, as well. Unfortunately, we can’t completely censor everything we hear and see in the news for our children, but there are ways we can help them understand the news and all types of stories that can be told.
- Be aware of your own reactions to the events and what you are saying around your child. Most of the time, children will model an adult’s behavior towards a situation. If you can handle it with less stress, there will be a better chance of them handling it the same way.
- Keep your child’s age in mind and turn off the news when needed. Usually the most frightening, newsworthy stories are given at the top of the hour and half-hour marks. Pictures can have greater impact on a child compared to words and can last longer in their minds. A key rule of thumb is keep all news away from preschool children. At this age, they can easily confuse facts with fantasy or fear. Always filter the news and conversation based on the child’s age, maturity, and temperament.
- Take a news break, no matter how old they are. Adults can benefit from stepping back, as well. Schedule a daily or weekly break from the Internet, social media, radio, cell phones, TV, newspapers, etc. and enjoy other activities. You and your family can still stay connected and informed without being glued to the news reports.
- Emphasize the fact you and your family are safe. Reassure them some events can happen far away or won’t impact them at all. If there could be a potential connection to your family’s area or lives, explain to your kids they are safe, and you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Share a few age-appropriate tips for staying safe. Also, take action, if possible. Maybe your family can write letters to a politician, volunteer, or donate to certain causes and humanitarian efforts.
- Communicate often and be open for questions. Children will process events in their own time and way. Helping them create their foundation for beliefs will guide their thinking and allow them to be more careful about generalizing from what they see and hear. Plus, the discussions are great chances to check in with your kid on what they may already know and if they are hearing correct news information from others around them.
- Give your children a chance to express themselves. As they get older, they may start to develop strong ideas and feelings on certain topics, especially if they are affected. Address their concerns without using a disapproving manner or dismissing them. You may disagree with them and that is okay. However, it is important to give your kid a wide range of views and media portrayals of a single event.
- Stay alert for signs as to how your child is coping. Symptoms can include sleep problems, headaches, general not feeling well, changes in behavior, anxiety, depression, acting immaturely, being more demanding, and emotional problems. If your child expresses any of these signs after viewing a news story, he or she may need extra support. Always talk with your child about what is going on and how you can help. If needed, don’t be afraid to consult a pediatrician, counselor, or other mental health professional.
It can be hard to comprehend a tragedy on the news, but these stories do happen. Be present for your child, filter their exposure, and help them understand what they have seen and heard using these tips.