By: Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
These days, putting the news on can be a daunting task. Negative news centered around shootings, a divisive political landscape and ongoing mental health challenges are sure to saturate the content being shared with us. It's no secret that children are like sponges, soaking up what they see and hear. Having these kids exposed to this content without taking some steps to support them can cause them to struggle with feelings of anxiety and fear. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the damaging effects of the media on your children.
1. Engage them in conversation
From a young, but developmentally appropriate age, set the tone that there can be an ongoing conversation that occurs between you and your children. Regularly check in with them if you know they have been nearby while you have the evening news on. Children are extremely adept at picking up on things, so the approach of avoiding the topic all together, even if the news is bringing up difficult feelings for you, will most likely not be effective. It's okay to admit to your child that something on the news made you feel sad. Engage them in a discussion on what feelings it may have brought up for them and then discuss healthy ways of coping with sadness.
2. Answer questions -- to a degree
This is where you must use your judgement to determine what your child can or cannot handle. There are also times where there simply is no logical answer. It's okay to admit to your children that you don't know why something was done or why someone did something. Providing them with developmentally appropriate answers to other questions is okay. There is no need to include graphic details of certain situations, but again, this is a case by case basis and you must use your judgement.
3. Offer your ongoing support
Remember that your child may not be ready to have this conversation. Offer them your listening ear but do not force them to talk about it. Remind them that you are available if needed and validate their feelings when and if they do approach you. Remind them of all of the safety measures that exist to keep them safe. It also may be helpful to take a proactive approach and tell them that they may see or hear things in the news or on the internet that makes them sad or scared or uncomfortable. Share with them that you are available if they ever come across anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Image by: Pixabay
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles