by Angie Shiflett
September 11th, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the current complications associated with ISIS make terrorism and other forms of violence at the forefront of scary news headlines in front of our kids – on the radio, on television, on the internet, and other media outlets. Parents are responsible for explaining these terrible acts of violence to the children of the world. While considered to be exceptionally difficult, these conversations are considered to be imperative. It is not at all to find yourself, as a parent, awkwardly stumbling through explanations while fielding various questions from your kids. It is your responsibility to equip your children with the truth, but, in doing so, you must also ensure that your kids continue to feel secure. Here are a few steps on how to achieve success in helping kids cope with scary news.
Limit Screen Time
The first and most important step that you may take to help kids cope with scary news is to limit their exposure to the news stories that are currently in circulation. Naturally, children are likely to hear stories of what is happening in the world from friends, relatives, and neighbors; however, if a child spends a lot of time in front of a screen, whether it is a smartphone screen, a computer screen, or a television screen, they will, inevitably, be exposed to more news. Based on this fact alone, it is important to limit screen time by putting time restrictions, website restrictions, and parental controls on electronic devices. You should screen the news stories first. Then, you may filter which stories are most appropriate for your child. Additionally, this will give you the ability to prepare for the questions that your child is likely to have once they hear the news stories that you have permitted them to see and/or hear.
It is a known fact that kids are sensitive to the emotions that their parents experience – both good emotions and negative emotions. Despite the fact that it may be extremely difficult and scary to hear about stories such as those that surrounded the events of 9/11 or the 11/13 in Paris, you must keep calm when in the presence of your children. When you speak to children or around children about scary news, it is important that you remain calm and speak in such a way that is appropriate for their unique level of understanding, developmentally-speaking. If you are asked by your kids if you are upset by the news or worried, you may be honest; however, reassure them that all is well and that all of you will be fine. You should never attempt to hide your emotions. Instead, you may show emotion; however, do so with caution as to not frighten your child. If you remain calm, your child is likely to remain calm, too!
When you are asked questions by your kids about scary news, you should ask questions of them before responding. First, you should ask what they have seen or heard. Next, you should determine what it is that they are most concerned about. In most instances, you will find that your child is frightened that the same type of scary news that they have learned about may happen to them. If this is the case, you should reassure your child that they are protected and provide them with positive information on how to cope with various types of situations should they find themselves in those scenarios. Ask questions and then provide responses.
Use Scary News to Teach
Scary news may be a great opportunity to teach your child. You could use the stories of terrorism and violence that are in the media to encourage kids to be empathetic, compassionate, and giving. You and your child could work together to help others that may have a need as a result of the scary news. You may use the scary news to enhance a child’s religious beliefs or to teach them how your religion deals with those types of situations. Regardless of how scary the scary news is, it is important to know and understand that many valuable lessons may be taught to a child while educating them about the situation.
Terrorism, violence, death…these are all parts of our world. Despite our best efforts to shield our children from scary news stories involving these complications, they are – more than likely – going to catch wind of these stories. When they do, they will come to you to ask questions and to learn more. Ultimately, they want to ensure their safety and your safety. Reassurance should always be offered for safety and children should be taught how to handle different types of situations that they are faced with. By being open, honest, and caring towards your child about all the happenings in the world, they will come to understand that, yes, this is a part of our lives, but, it does not mean that our lives have to stop – we must simply learn how to adjust.