The television, the internet, and social media all have the ability to shrink the world and bring everything into our homes. With the media focus on violence and tragedy, it’s especially important that parents and caregivers work to help kids feel safe.
Watching the news can make kids worry, especially those at a younger age who might not understand the difference between fact and fantasy. Television, to them, seems real. Sensational news coverage, even though it may be an event happening far away, becomes something that might happen to them. A story about a tornado wiping out homes can make a child think “Could that happen to me?”
Be aware of what your child is watching on television and their internet habits.
Natural disasters, accidents, and illnesses reported in the news can all be personalized in the same way. Kids who see this footage may suffer from sleepless nights and worry about whether they will be okay if it is storming outside. They might be anxious fearing an accident when riding in a car.
By having children in the room with you when watching television or sitting together while on the internet you’ll be able to respond when there are items that could concern a young child.
Make it a habit to discuss current events with your child in response to their comments and concerns. Start by asking “what have you heard about . . .” Help them to think about the stories they hear from friends at school or on the news. Ask questions to help their thought process. You may not have all the answers, it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”
You can communicate the truth to a child, but only as much as the child needs to know. Being honest is the key to helping children feel safe. Acknowledge that disasters and accidents happen and ask your child to tell you about what scares them.
One thing that Mr. Rogers, the minister and main character of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, spoke about when children are faced with tragedies, was that there are always “helpers.” If you talk to children in terms of who is helping, how people helped when the disaster happened it will turn their thoughts to cooperation and overcoming hardship.
Lastly, you can talk to children about how you can help. If there is something you can do to prepare in advance for disasters or avoiding accidents and illness, teach your child. The ability to be prepared will help your child feel like they have a bit of control and give them a sense of security.
If your child isn’t coping well.
You might see signs that your child isn’t coping well with what they are seeing or hearing in the media. Sleep problems, physical complaints and changes in behavior are all signs that could point to an anxiety problem. You may also notice that your child has become more clingy, doesn’t want you to leave them with a caregiver or in the nursery, or voices concerns that you won’t return. Talking honestly with your child and asking questions is the best way to make them feel less anxious. But if the problem persists, a visit to a therapist might be in order.
Talking about difficult news is exhausting. Don’t be afraid to turn off the television and take a break! Get outside, go for a walk, do something different that will give everyone some enjoyment. Often, getting away from the television and the internet will help refocus everyone’s thoughts on the more pleasant things in life.