Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Talking to Your Child About What’s in The News

My experience is that many children, particularly those who have generalised anxiety can become quite distressed by exposure toseemingly innocuous exposure to events that are a part of everyday life.

9781572245822-crop-325x325Although news gleaned from television, radio, or the Internet often is a positive educational experience for kids, problems can arise when the images presented are violent or the stories touch on disturbing topics. While we worry about our childrens’ exposure to violence and sexual content in movies, on the internet, and on tv, we need to remember that news programs shpw often live and real images and media from real events which are often distressing and increasingly graphic.

News about a natural disaster, such as the devastating earthquake in China or cyclone in Myanmar, could make kids worry that something similar is going to hit home, or fear a part of daily life — such as rain and thunderstorms — that they’d never worried about before.

Reports on natural disasters, child abductions, homicides, terrorist attacks, and school violence can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.

How can you deal with these disturbing stories and images? Talking to your kids about what they watch or hear will help them put frightening information into a reasonable context.

How Kids Perceive the News

Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on a child’s age or maturity level, he or she may not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy. By the time kids reach 7 or 8, however, what they see on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a bombing on a bus or a subway might worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?”Natural disasters or

stories of other types of devastation can be personalized in the same manner. A child in Massachusetts who sees a house being swallowed by floods from a hurricane in Louisiana may spend a sleepless night worrying about whether his home will be OK in a rainstorm. A child in Chicago, seeing news about an attack on subways in London, might get scared about using public transportation around town. TV has the effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into our own living rooms.

By concentrating on violent stories, TV news also can promote a “mean-world” syndrome and give kids an inaccurate view of what the world and society are actually like.

Talking About the News

9780814474464-crop-325x325

To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver what psychologists call “calm, unequivocal, but limited information.” This means delivering the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be as truthful yet as inexplicit as you can be. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in. Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

August 5, 2009 - Posted by | anxiety, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resilience, stress | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. […] Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist writes about talking to your kids about difficult events in the news: To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver what psychologists call “calm, unequivocal, but limited information.” This means delivering the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be as truthful yet as inexplicit as you can be. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in. […]

    Pingback by Helping the Child Feel Safe | August 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi – I’m Casey from The Wonder Years. You left a lovely comment on my problem solving binder yesterday. I clicked on this link today and wow, I have tears in my eyes. I didn’t realize you were a psychologist.

    I have very sensitive (and gifted) girls. My almost 6 year old has generalized anxiety/separation anxiety and selective mutism (well, I should say is OVERCOMING selective mutism). Because of these things, we do not watch the news, but get the news from the internet and tape any news programs we actually want to see to watch after they go to bed.

    However, even though we don’t watch the news, my oldest has a fear of tornadoes and storms because we were caught a mile a way from our car on a field trip to a historical farm when a summer storm was coming in. We barely made it back to the car before the storm hit.

    And even though my middle daughters SM is coming under control, I’ve still noticed an increase in worries about things she hears.

    One was due to a thoughtless child who told her he was going to hypnotize her older sister to kill her and her 4 year old sister (yes, I was furious at this boy). She had a really hard time falling asleep that night. If you are interested, you can read about the story here:http://raisingsmartgirls.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-disturbing-little-incident/. If you are interested, you could read about her selective mutism journey as well. It’s in the tab at the top.

    Another one was due to her cousin telling her about 3rd degree burns yesterday, and then she somehow translated that into the sun was going to give her a third degree burn.

    At any rate, we’ve been avoiding therapy so far, but if her fears continue and I can’t talk her down from them, I see us going to a therapist for them sooner than later. We probably should have been in therapy a while ago, but I tend to want to try to do things myself first. I have a background in clinical genetics and I tend to research things a lot so I’ve been able to learn a lot, but I realize I have still a lot to learn.

    I appreciate this post of yours. I see that you have a lot of things I’m going to be interested in reading, particularly about anxiety and resilience.

    Anyway, I apologize for blathering on, but I’m struck with…um…the realization that I try to take on too much.

    Comment by growinginpeace | August 6, 2009 | Reply

  3. Je voudrai vous dire que c’est toujours un plaisir de venir sur votre blog

    Comment by algérienne pouf | June 1, 2014 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: