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.

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Turning It Off Without Tuning Them Out.

So many BIG things in the media. Unexpected interruptions on the radio and television that we cant always prevent little ears from hearing. It’s all right to turn the media off as long as we aren’t just tuning out the questions it creates in our children’s minds. We can’t protect our children from every ‘big scary thing’ in the world. We can however, listen to their fears, ponder their real questions, and share some simple thoughts to help them know we are protecting them.

What are some simple ways we can convey we are protecting our children from the ‘big things’?

Protection from large health threats

  • Washing our hands frequently with soap and water helps us to stay healthy.
  • Covering our mouth and nose when we sneeze or cough help us to prevent spreading germs.

Protection from violence

  • When playing outside, staying in the areas our parents have told us are as safe places to play.
  • Telling our parents if we see anyone or anything that seems ‘not safe’.

Let your child know that you ‘hear’  that you are ‘listening’ and that her concern matters to you.

What are ways you have helped your child feel ‘heard’ when it comes to big fears or worries?

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Big things and little people

When I was a little girl …’some very bad men stole a big plane over the ocean and turned the men on it into hostages”, at least, that’s what I understood at the time. About that same time, my parents were supposed to fly in a big plane over the ocean as well. I was a wreck. I was certain the bad men were going to ‘make hostages out’ of my parents too.

As parents, it is important for us to ‘see’ from our children’s eyes what the media reports and stories may look and sound like to them. During the hostage crisis, I was in elementary school. Everything was in close proximity to us in my young mind. Oceans most certainly must be just beyond grandmas, the bad men were from a local jail and any airplane could be next. In my mind and at my age everything was close and everything was possible. I had no concept of the distance between the United States and Iran. I had understanding of military intervention or hostage negotiations. All I knew is that my parents were going away on a plane and I DIDN’T LIKE IT.

It was a tough week while my parents were gone.  I remember it vividly even though it’s been several decades. Everyone once in awhile my elementary age daughter will see or hear something on the news and ask a general question. I make myself stop and listen for what she’s really asking, “Could that happen to me? Is that happening close to us? Are they coming to our town next?”  Even though she isn’t ASKING those questions out loud it is very possible she could be thinking them. My role as a parent is to listen for the un-asked question, search out the underlying fear and determine what she really needs to know.

Our children are hearing the news. Are we listening to their questions?

What have your children asked about the various ‘big topics’ on the news?  What insight could you share with us about your response?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Plugging In For Special Needs

I’m texting my daughter wondering when she needs me to pick her up. I’m writing my blog on my laptop. And I listened to the podcast on an iPad. Technology is important to me.

I listened with interest to what Dr. Susan Walker and the guys had to say… I was curious. I wanted to know where I fit in. I was hoping they weren’t going to tell me I was too ‘plugged in’. They didn’t. They made me feel like I was using the technology in a way that really supported my parenting. How refreshing for once! Instead of being told it’s too much I was told…think about how you are using it to support your family life in a positive way.

I started to wonder how I would share with you positive impacts it has made on our family… I hesitated to share this particular story but then decided that maybe there was someone else who wants to know if they ‘fit in’….. Technology can help parents find that emotional and social support they need when they have a child with special needs.

My daughter as Aspergers. She has difficulty in social situations. She is disorganized and struggles with self-confidence. She has amazing in-depth thoughts and ideas but struggles to express them verbally. We got her a phone for her 12th birthday. We initially wondered if she would be able to utilize the phone because she is intimidated to talk typically. But we were ‘hopeful’ that she might take to texting.

The child amazed us in a matter of hours. Her texts were stunning. Long full thoughts with CAPITAL letters and EXCLAMATION points!!!! She was thrilled to be able finish her thoughts without losing her confidence like she does when speaking. We were thrilled! And admittedly annoyed when she would correct us or impatiently text again and again waiting for an answer.

Technology supported her in a way we never guessed. The iPad has given her big imagination and a place to listen to/read books, as well a place to create The cell phone has give her a voice. As parents we struggled with the idea of ‘plugging her in’ wondering what others might say because she is 12.

Technology supported our parenting. It supported our child. It’s boundaries are limitless so it is up to us to set boundaries and find boundaries. Make sure that technology does not ‘replace’ your child’s learning but supports it. Also that it is appropriate for your child’s current development. Support groups and websites for parents of children with special needs are a fabulous place to let technology build us up as parents and fill our parenting tool box.

What ways has technology supported you or your family?  How have you benefited from getting your family ‘plugged in?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Turn That Darn Thing Off!!

During the recent holidays I spent three days with my kids and grandkids. Every single person arrived with their smartphone and a laptop or tablet/notebook. While we watched movies and football games, people multitasked – taking and sending photos, texting, checking email, playing games, etc. And yes, I was doing the same.

So I was eager to listen to this month’s podcast on Using Technology to Help with Parenting. An important distinction made early in the podcast was the difference between what and how adults use devices and programs and how parents use them.

I learned in the podcast that technology allows parents to be multi-functional. They use technology for information and communication and for emotional support from other parents.  The digital divide is closing with age being a minor predictor. That’s good news for grandparents like me who use technology constantly at work and at home! And people are using Facebook to keep connected with people they don’t see often.

So what does this mean for you as a parent or grandparent? If you are using technology to communicate with your child, that can be a good thing for checking in, sending reminders, etc. But there is a flipside.  Be careful not to micro-manage your child’s life or allow them to become too dependent on your constant presence. Children need to learn responsibility and problem solving and how to be independent.  Also balance these quick exchanges with the face-to-face interactions that are vital to relationships. Insist on some technology-free time. For example, during our long weekend together meals were “no tech” times. We enjoyed both the food and conversation without the interruptions of tech devices. Of course the rules applied to both adults and kids.

If you are using technology to get information about parenting, there is more out there than we can begin to comprehend. A search on any parenting topic results in endless options. I usually restrict my sources to the educational sites and I am going to add the Tufts University Child and Family Web Guide to my favorites list.

How do you use technology as a parent? And how do you filter the endless possibilities for information via technology?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Episode 11: Using Technology to Help with Parenting

From podcasts to text messages and Skype, many parents are adding technology to their parenting toolkit. This month’s Science of Parenting podcast takes a closer look at how parents can use information and communications technology for parenting.

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Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Grover vs ….?

I am a product of Sesame Street. Yep, I counted with the Count and ate cookies with Cookie. And deep down I’m probably still in enamored with loveable furry ‘ole Grover!

According to this month’s podcast there are 34 years of research that shows I very likely went to kindergarten having ‘learned’ from Sesame Street! Knowing that tv truly is ‘teaching’ our children can be both exciting and frightening at the same time.  This month’s podcast addresses how we can sift through what our children should and shouldn’t watch on television.

As I think about what my children might be learning from tv, I think most about all of the different channels available. I only had three options. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the different programming options available. My girls and I enjoy several of the nature and real life types of shows on various channels, but have also watched the cartoon-y children’s programs. We like the options!

Do I limit what they watch – yes I try my best. Are there times that they may be watching something less than stellar in my opinion? Absolutely. As I was listening to the podcast I appreciated the recognition that different channels may have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ programming. That one channel may not be all ‘bad’ or all ‘good’. The bottom line was that I needed to pay attention to the different programs, watch them for myself and then determine whether it would be something I should let my girls watch.

What types of characteristics do you look at when you determine whether or not your children should watch something?

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Episode 8: Children and TV

Parents need to know what their kids are watching on television and steer them toward the “good stuff.” Learn how to determine what the good stuff is — listen to this month’s Science of Parenting podcast.

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From the Science of Parenting Blog

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Discussing Celebrity Behavior

Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton . . .  The list of celebrities who have been involved in recent scandals and outrageous behavior goes on and on.  The lives of superstars have become so fascinating to the general public that there are entire television networks dedicated to filling you in on all the celebrity gossip.  Some people even gain superstar status because they exhibit inappropriate behavior.

As a parent, it can be concerning to know that children are watching these celebrity scandals, and seeing the incredible media frenzy and fame that comes along with them.  So what can you be doing to help your children understand all this information?

First of all, it is important to talk to your children about how this information makes them feel, and what their thoughts are about it.  Children might feel shocked or disappointed by the negative and inconsistent behavior of someone they look up to.

Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings about the incident.  Don’t attack the celebrity (if it is a person your child looks up to, your child may feel the need to defend the celebrity).  Instead, talk about what might make a person behave like this.  Let your child know that celebrities and athletes are all human, and they all make mistakes.

During the conversation, you can also ask your child how the celebrity could have behaved differently, more appropriately.  This will help your child understand what appropriate behavior looks like, and how he/she can make good choices in difficult situations.

It is important for children to have role models to look up to.  Try introducing your children to local role models, who will demonstrate positive behaviors for your children.  For example, a firefighter, a policeman/policewoman, a nurse, or a teacher.  You can take this a step further by encouraging your child to be a positive role model.  Your child could do this by asking a classmate to play at recess, saving a spot for a new friend at lunch, or giving a nice compliment.

What strategies have you used to help your child understand inappropriate and inconsistent celebrity behaviors?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Introduction to Science of Parenting Podcast

Welcome to the Science of Parenting. Doug and Mike explain the kinds of parenting topics they’re going to be talking about in this new monthly podcast. They say you might even hear scientific information that could make you a better parent and ultimately mean your children turn out OK.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Children’s weight related to media use

Did you know that media use has been linked to being overweight and obese? In the U.S., children between 8-and 18-years old spend an average of 44.5 hours a week using media and only 8.75 hours a week exercising. Children who spend too much time using media tend to be overweight. In fact, research shows that a preschooler’s risk of becoming obese increases 6% for every hour of T.V. watched per day.

Obesity is a major health concern and an epidemic for our nation, including our nation’s children of all ages. The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 15% in 1980 to 34% in 2008 among adults and increased from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008 among children and adolescents.
Too much media use can increase body weight and reduce:

  • physical activity
  • reading
  • doing homework
  • playing with friends
  • spending time with family
  • metabolic rates

Parents must set rules and limit their child’s access to media and encourage healthy alternatives to media use, especially exercise.

Scientists have found that reducing the amount of time preschoolers watch television lowers their body weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • Absolutely no screen time for children under the age of three years
  • No more than 1 hour of total screen time for children ages 3-12 years per day

All children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate or intense aerobic physical activity each day. There are many alternatives to media use that parents can recommend to their children, such as:

  • Riding a bike
  • Playing outside
  • Going to the library
  • Attending a sporting or musical event
  • Playing with a friend
  • Walking a dog
  • Practicing a musical instrument
  • Playing a board game
  • Reading a book
  • Drawing
  • Swimming
  • Going for a walk
  • Participating in organized activities such as baseball, tennis, dance, and swimming, and
  • Cooking family meals together

For more information about preventing obesity, visit http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Video Gaming

To game or not to game … that is the question! With high definition graphics, multiple levels and players, and even bouts against other users via the internet, video gaming has reached a new technological level. These graphics are appealing to children, but researchers and parents often want to know about the potential negative effects of video gaming.

While video games have some positive effects on children (fine motor skills, mouse/keyboard abilities, and visual attention skills), they have been shown to increase aggression in children, both in the short and long term. Even playing a hostile video game just once increases a child’s likelihood of being aggressive towards others in the near future. Continued exposure to hostile video games has the long term effect of making children more aggressive over time. In fact, regular exposure to violent video games increases a child’s likelihood of getting into a fight by two to four times! On top of this, spending too much time playing video games has been linked to decreases in school performance.

To avoid the negative effects of video games, parents need to pay attention to both the content of video games, as well as the amount of time children are playing the video games. Video game ratings serve as a good starting point for gauging whether or not a video is appropriate for your child, but don’t stop there. Parents also need to look at the content of the game. If the game involves aggression or harm toward others, this game is not appropriate for children and will likely cause increased aggression (even if the game involves cartoon characters).

When it comes to the amount of video game playing time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for recommended total screen time each day. This includes video games, television, and computer usage:

  • Under 3 years old = NO screen time
  • Elementary aged children = 1 hour per day
  • Middle and high school children = 2 hours per day

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Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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