The news is scary these days. Whether it’s war or climate change or violence, bad news just goes on and on. How do you help your children handle the scary news they hear or see? For that matter, how do you help yourself cope with bad news?
There is an old newsroom adage that if it bleeds, it leads. This means that the more sensational the story, the more it will get broadcast. And there is plenty to show right now—-the war in Ukraine, the global pandemic, mass shootings, and violent rallies to name of few. Yikes! If you are upset by these events, imagine how your children are coping? Here are some ideas to help you keep your children centered amid the chaos.
Tips for Handling Scary News
What To Do When The News Scares You is a book filled with ideas for how to help your child process scary events. Some ideas in the book include:
- Recognize that children’s ability to copy with unpleasant news varies with age and the child.
- It is very important to limit young children’s exposure to news stories. When you can’t limit their news contact, be available for questions.
- Consider how you access your news. Reading news on your own is the least likely way to transfer information to children. Watching television news with your children present is the most likely way to transfer scary information. Often just the visual and sound effects are enough to unsettle anyone.
- Listen to your child’s concerns before offering explanations. Ask what they have heard and what that information means to them. You may uncover misperceptions that you can correct.
- Tell the truth, but gently. Include information about how the event is being dealt with and how people are being cared for.
- Remind children that you and other adults will keep them safe. Use concrete examples if you can.
- Maintain routines and don’t let news intrude on daily activities.
Look for Helpers
Fred Rogers had timeless advise which still applies today. He said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” Truer words could not be spoken. When there is a fire, you see brave firefighters. If there is a natural disaster, you see others helping the folks in need by providing shelter, food, clean-up, and money. During the continuing pandemic, front line health workers are there. And now with the war, so many people are reaching out to help.
Be a helper yourself. Taking action toward a positive outcome is always comforting. You and your children might decide if you can help those in need through your actions. Maybe you will look in your own community to see where you can help. Or maybe you will decide to send money to organizations that help people far away. What a wonderful message you are teaching your children.
Shrink the Worries
It is a given that your children will have worries when they hear the news. This is another good time to bring out Shrinking the Worry Monster, A Kid’s Guide for Saying Goodbye to Worries. In this book, two brave children learn how to shrink their worries by finding out Worry Monster’s secret. Your children will learn that when they watch scary news, the Worry Monster might say, “The same bad thing will happen to you and you should be very worried!”. But they will know how to talk right back to the Worry Monster, “No way, Worry Monster, that is happening a long way from here. My parents are keeping me safe. Go away NOW!” This research-tested strategy and many others are in the author’s book and extensive blog. Check it out.
The news is scary for all of us, but especially our children. This article shares tips for minimizing your children’s worry, how to look for helpers in bad situations, and how to shrinking worries. All are very valuable during this scary time.
Dr. Sally is a retired child psychologist and children’s book author. The Spanish version of Shrinking the Worry Monster will be available next month. She is currently working on a book titled A Good Night’s Sleep. Dr. Sally is available to speak at events and can be contacted at www.drsallyb.com.
Excellent article, Sally. Thank you. I have forwarded it to others.