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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