Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

REPOST: Talking to Your Child About What’s in The News

I originally blogged this post on August 5th last year. With the recent natural disasters in places like Haiti and Chile, and also the very raw and terrible tragedies involving young children and youth closer to my home in southeast Queensland, Australia, I have decided to repost it. I have done so in case it is helpful for other parents who, like myself are dealing with kids who are concerned about what they see and hear and read about troubling local and world events…

My experience is that many children, particularly those who have generalised anxiety can become quite distressed by exposure to seemingly 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

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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.

March 1, 2010 - Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Internet, Resilience, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for sharing this article. This would really help a lot to all parents out there who let their kids watch news on TV.

    Comment by kimberley5949 | March 1, 2010 | Reply


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