When the News is Scary

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 adults’ body language, conversations and news media stories. Our guest blogger, Malisa Rader, suggests parents be reassuring, monitor their TV viewing when children are present, and watch for signs of stress in their children.

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.

Regardless, 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 your child is anxious over recent disturbing events in the news.

Parents, teachers and child caregivers can help children who are feeling distressed about safety cope with their fears, we recommended the following actions:

Keep regular routines. Stick to your normal schedule and events. Children take comfort in predictable daily events like dinner at the kitchen table and bedtime rituals. Knowing what will happen provides a feeling of security.

Watch your emotions. People everywhere, parents included, likely had strong reactions to what happened over the weekend. Children who 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 with your child. Find out what your child knows and what questions he or she would like answered. Young children might express themselves through drawing or in their play. Provide reassurance, clear up any misconceptions and point out to your child the many helpful people in emergency events like law enforcement and medical professionals. Talk with your child about what is happening to make him or her safe at home, at school or in the neighborhood.

Limit your TV viewing. Monitor what is watched on television and for how long. Young children may not understand that scenes repeating on news stations are all the same event. Choose a favorite video to maintain better control over what your children are viewing.

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 your child.

Take action. If your 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 can help bring back a sense of power and help your child feel a part of the response.

Seek professional advice if needed. If your child shows symptoms of distress such as a change in appetite or sleep patterns, speak with your child’s physician or a mental health professional. You also can contact ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline at 800-447-1985.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

Back to School – Start the Conversation

It’s officially August! That means that back-to-school sales are in full swing and are serving as an ever-present reminder that summer is ending soon. Maybe for some of you this is a relief as you’re ready to get back to a regular routine, but maybe for others you are dreading your kiddos heading back-to-school. Either way, the reality is that it is coming (and probably sooner than we think).

So as if the back-to-school sales and the new AUGUST calendar page aren’t reminder enough, we here at the Science of Parenting blog wanted to get your wheels turning on it too! We have one simple reminder or suggestion for you to consider in order to make the back-to-school transition go a little smoother– start communicating about how things will be different when school starts, BEFORE school starts J

Growing up in my family we usually had these conversations over a “family meeting” where everyone was present and knew we would be having the conversation. Find a way that works for you family to have these important conversations. Here’s a few things you may want to consider discussing around the back-to-school transition:

  1. Logistics, especially things like…
    • What kinds of activities will any of your kids be doing beyond attending school (soccer, theater, chess club, etc.),
    • What time kids need to be at school or any extra activities,
    • Plans are for transportation,
    • Daily routines (who gets up first, who showers in the evening vs morning, bedtimes, etc.)
  2. Family plans and goals
    • Is there anything your family wants to do together during the school year? Maybe you’re looking at preparing more meals in advance, or finding time every week to have an hour where everyone is together, or maybe trying out a new hobby as family.
  3. Give your child a chance to ask questions
    • Having conversations ahead of time gives your child several opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Maybe your school age child needs some clarification on where they go after school? Or maybe your teenager wants to talk to you about a some new privileges this year? Either way, having a time when you kids get the chance to ask their questions in a positive environment can help everyone get in the right mindset.

Consider starting the back-to-school conversation soon to make the transition for your family a smooth one!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

Family Vacations- Memories in the Making!

A few weeks ago we got to hear our friend, Barb Dunn-Swanson, featured on Iowa Public Radio talking about family vacations. We learned a lot about “family leisure”, and we heard that some of the value of family vacation comes from quality family time – whether home or away! As I think back on my family vacations growing up, I have positive memories of visiting new places, relaxing in the sun, and laughing while playing family games. But if I really think about it, I can also remember the stress my mom experienced trying to spend money wisely, to navigate in a new city, or to get my siblings and I to stop fighting after so much time together. Now as a parent myself, I am in the process of planning a family vacation, and I’m finding the stress holds true for me too.

Luckily, when it comes to family vacation, our kids are likely going to remember the good stuff. Similar to the stories we heard from callers on the radio show, nearly all of them were sharing fond memories of family vacations. So let’s stop here for a moment, take a breath. Remember that the time, energy, and money you are allocating toward a family vacation (or stay-cation!) is likely going to result in positive family memories down the road!

For me, I think of one vacation in particular where my family went on an out-of-state trip. I look back on that time together and I remember binge-watching (before that was even cool!) a TV show we all liked. I remember playing tennis for one of the first times – a sport which I grew to love and eventually qualified for the state tournament in high school. I remember going on rides at an amusement park. I remember that my sister and I shared a bed on one family vacation and my sister kept me awake by TALKING in her sleep, something I still like to bring up from time to time.

So as you examine tourism brochures, scour the internet for the best travel deals, or are exploring information about local parks, remember the outcome you are working toward. Remember that while you may be stressing to plan a “perfect vacation”, you are creating a prime opportunity for family memories that will be talked about for years to come. In short, cut yourself some slack (whether in emotional energy or in dollars), and look forward to the fun that lies ahead!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

New Blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, shares research and reality

Hello hello! I’m Mackenzie, and I’m so excited to be joining the Science of Parenting blog team! A little about me – I have an infant daughter, I enjoy cooking from scratch, and I’m a total geek for research on the interaction of parents and children (even studied it in college)! These three facts about me actually all roll together into one of my biggest passions – learning about the phenomenon of how parents get the opportunity to help raise new adults “from scratch”!

In my education, I’ve learned a lot about parenting styles, stages of child development, strategies for guidance and discipline, etc. So when I thought about becoming a parent, I had big plans. Oh boy, I had all kinds of plans! I said things to myself like “I will do things this way” and “I would never do that” … Then I held my tiny infant in my arms, and suddenly everything changed. She came into the world with her own temperament, her own challenges, her own quirks. I found out that my plans weren’t panning out how I thought- no matter how much effort I put into them! “What now?”, I asked myself, “I know that research suggests this is the best way to do this, but my plans aren’t working!”

Over a few months, I’ve been able to get some clarity on what I like to refer to as “balancing research and reality”. The research suggested that _______ is the most successful strategy, but I had to balance that information with what my reality was. With certain things, the research-suggested strategy just wasn’t working for us… But Instead of feeling terribly guilty about it, I’ve come to find a level of acceptance. I realized that I wasn’t a failure, but rather a parent who made an educated decision about what was best for my family. In certain circumstances, it was better for my family to change the way we were doing things than to continue on a path that wasn’t working for us. And because I had learned about the research, I was able to make an INFORMED decision for MY FAMILY.

That’s the perspective I hope to bring with me to the blog: understanding that research is here to empower us to be able to make informed decisions about what is in the best interest of our families. So no parent-shaming here. No condescending words to belittle anyone’s parenting. No telling you that there is only one way to do it. Instead, we will work to give you access to information so that you can decide what is best for your family.

So yes, I’m truly excited to be joining the Science of Parenting team, because I just can’t think of a better parent-empowering movement to get behind.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn