Shocked, saddened, angered, and concerned. All of these are emotions we as adults are feeling after Friday’s tragic events in Connecticut. It might be easy to assume that young ones are not impacted by tragic events in other parts of the country, but children have a keen sense of radar and pick up on our body language, adult conversations, and news media stories.
All children are born with a unique temperament. Some will be more sensitive to scary news stories or worrisome about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. We need to be mindful of what we are watching and discussing when small ears are around while also making sure we take time to listen and pick up on cues our child might be sending us. A change in behavior like clinginess or crying might be a signal that a child in your care is anxious over recent disturbing events in the news.
Parents, teachers and child caregivers can help children that are feeling distressed about safety cope with their fears. We recommend the following actions:
Keep regular routines. Stick to your normal schedule and events. Children take comfort in predictable daily events like dinner at the snack at the table and naptime rituals. Knowing what will happen provides a feeling of security.
Watch your emotions. We are all are shocked and saddened when children are victims of a tragic event. Children that are sensitive to emotions can pick up on this and become concerned for their own safety or the safety of others. When adults maintain a calm and optimistic attitude, children will also.
Have conversations. If a child is showing some signs that concern you, talk to the child’s parents. Find out if they have similar concerns, and come up with a plan for talking with the child and answering questions he or she might have. Young children might express themselves through drawing or in their play. Provide reassurance, clear up any misconceptions and point out to the child the many helpful people in emergency events like law enforcement and medical professionals. Talk with the child about what is happening to make him or her safe at home, school or in the neighborhood.
Limit TV viewing. It might be tempting to catch up on the latest news events, but resist that urge. Young children may not understand that scenes repeating on news stations are all the same event.
Find healthy ways to deal with feelings. Taking a walk together, reading a favorite book, or playing a board game can be comforting to both you and the children in your care.
Take action. If a child continues to show concern, he or she may be feeling a loss of control. Doing something such as sending a donation or writing a letter, if developmentally and age appropriate, can help bring back a sense of power and help children feel a part of the response.
Seek professional advice if needed. If a child shows symptoms of distress such as a change in appetite or sleep patterns, recommend to the child’s parents that they speak with a medical or a mental health professional. You can also contact ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline at 1-800-447-1985.
Share Resources with Parents.
Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.”
In case you haven’t heard this today, thank you for the important work you do! You make care and safety of young children a priority, and we at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are proud to work along side you.
P.S. Please share with us your conversations, concerns, or questions as you go about your work with young children this week. You may comment on the blog at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/lets-talk-scary-news/
Family Relationships, Health & Safety