What to tell kids when the news is scary

We’ve talked to a few child development experts about what parents, teachers and other caregivers can say to help kids process all the scary news out there. Here is what they had to say:

Breaking news limits their exposure

“We can control the amount of information. We can control the amount of exposure,” said Rosemary Truglio, senior vice president of Sesame Workshop curriculum and content.

For starters, Truglio says, try not to let your kids experience the news without you. This includes allowing TV or audio to play in the background. In 2017, 42 percent of parents of young children told Common Sense Media that TV is on “always” or “most” of the time.

As a young girl growing up in rural Louisiana, Alison Aquin remembers watching her father watch the evening news during the Vietnam War. “The way our house was set up, it was impossible for me to miss it completely.”

Aoken clearly remembers the rapid fire of the rifle and the shouts of the soldiers, but it was two. Words The reporters and anchors that keep using him make him really scared.

“[I] I heard the word ‘guerrilla warfare’ and … thought, gorillas – like monkeys, “say a coin ৷” and I had a literal plan for where I would hide in my closet when the gorillas came. “

“Since we can’t control the news on our own, adults need to control the technology that exposes children to potentially traumatic news,” he said.

For the big story, ask: “What have you heard and how are you feeling?”

While it’s important to limit your kids ’exposure to potentially terrifying media, some stories are too big to avoid. And as kids get older, if they don’t hear about it at home, they will almost certainly hear something from their classmates at school.

Adults should choose a quiet moment to check in with their kids, maybe at the dinner table or at bedtime, said Tara Conley, a media researcher at Montclair State University.

The idea, he said, is to allow children to “ask questions about what they see, how they feel and what they think.” In other words: give kids a safe place to reflect and share.

Give kids information and context

Holly Korbe, author of Building Better Citizens, says check-ins allow you to eliminate memes, myths and misconceptions, and are important in pushing social media., A new book on civic education. In the days leading up to the recent Iranian news, he said, “My own teenagers were showing me these memes and rumors on Instagram that the boys were drafted for World War III, no joke.”

“The most important thing parents can do in this scary weather is to talk to their children about events. For example: ‘No, there is no draft, and neither did we start World War III.’ “

Truglio says that if scary news happens far away from home, all parents or caregivers can do is reach for a map. Then, he said, a child “could see the distance that it was not in their immediate environment.”

Some traumatic events, however, can happen near home – for example, a school shooting. In that case, it is important to note that, as a whole, such incidents are incredibly rare. After all, that’s why the news.

When they ask why something happened, avoid labels like “bad guy”

Evan Neyerman, a father of two, lives in Parkland, Fla. The day after the 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, her son is 11, and her daughter is 8. She says one of the hardest moments for her as a father was when her kids asked her why she was shot. “And obviously there’s no great answer. It’s hard to explain.”

Truglio says we should resist the temptation to label someone “bad guy” or “evil.” It’s not helpful, and it can increase fear and confusion. Instead, he said, talk about people making pain, angry, and bad choices. Neyerman and his wife told their children that the shooter was not well and needed his help.

And according to Truglio, there’s one important thing parents shouldn’t be afraid to say: I don’t know.

“Sometimes we don’t have the answers to all of these factors,” he explains. “It’s important for parents to say … ‘I don’t know why.'”

Encourage kids to process the story through play and art

Children often try to understand what they see and hear through art and creative play. Sometimes it can be annoying for adults to see children re-enacting or drawing something scary or violent, but this type of play serves an important purpose.

“It’s part of the restructuring of the game,” Conley said [children’s] Own story. “He calls it” money-making “and says adults do it too – discussing stories with friends or even sharing memes on social media.” It also helps to understand the world around us … when we bombard with information. Being, “he explains,” and it helps us to understand reliable information. “

“Search for help”

Fred Rogers, the favorite children’s TV host, famously gave this advice from his mother: “When something scary happens, look for helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Trugli also did this while talking to his then-son about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. There was a Friday shooting, and he kept her away from television all weekend.

“We didn’t turn on the TV until President Obama spoke, and there was a commemorative service,” Truglio said. “We’re focused on the positive – how people are coming together and taking care of each other.”

There is evidence that talking about helpers makes a difference in how children view their world. After the Columbine School shooting in 1999, Sesame Workshop studied the perceptions of school-age children around the world through their drawings. The images were full of violence, Truglio said: “Guns and knives and dead people.”

But after the 9/11 attacks, just two years later, media coverage changed, he said, adding that “the country is strong. The country is uniting. We are united. We are going through it.” And it made a difference for the kids: their drawings featured American flags and heroes like police officers or firefighters.

Take positive steps together

Alison Aiken, who shares her memories and fears of the Vietnam War, is white; Her daughter, Adelavit, was adopted from Ethiopia. Adelavit was just 7 years old in 2014 when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mt.

“I was afraid something like this would happen to me,” said Adelavit, now 12, and since then, whenever there has been a police-related shooting, he and his mother have followed a few steps. At first his mother shared the news.

“I always have time to process it,” Adelavit said. “And then he says what can I do to protect myself. And then we go and protest.”

“When we talk to our kids,” Conley says, “we also have to show them how we’re helping, and ask them, ‘How do you see yourself as a helper in this situation?’ “

You might consider bringing your child to a peaceful gathering or protest, collecting donations together, or writing to an elected official. Feelings of agency can dramatically reduce a child’s anxiety.

In other words, don’t just look for helpers … Stay Helper