5 Tips For Talking To Your Children About What They See In The News

 


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Mommy (Daddy), Why do those people want to hurt everyone?

Last week, the world was shaken by another terrorist attack. Hot on the heels of the Live 8 benefits and in the middle of the G8 Summit, bombs exploded in London. Adults around the globe were glued to CNN and spent time discussing their feelings about the event around the water cooler at work, with their partners at home or in online discussion groups and e-mails. Collectively, we reached out and were comforted and reassured by the words of Prime Minister Tony Blair and other world leaders.

Many adults, however, do not realize how many kids are exposed to the same news. Older children may read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. Others may be exposed to “breaking news" during an interruption in their favorite cartoon t. v. program and still others can easily stumble across the information online via MSN, Yahoo, Google or any of the other online portals. While adults were declaring their solidarity in the War On Terror last week, many children's anxieties and fears were being overlooked.

In our efforts to protect our children and preserve the innocence of childhood as long as possible, we attempt to shield them from the atrocities that occur in today's turbulent times. When events such as the bombs in London, the events at the elementary school in Belsan, Russia in September, 2004 and the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center occur, our natural instinct is to not discuss the events of the day with our children. Yet, as news of terrorist attacks or other tragedies surround them, your children may be feeling frightened, anxious, sad and confused.

As a parent, only you can decide what news is appropriate for your children but do not assume that your child does not have an awareness of the tragic events that have a global impact. It’s important to talk to your children about the actions that shape our lives but the amount of information you share with your child differs across age groups and even from child to child.

The best way to make sure kids know they are safe, is to talk with them about what they see and hear and give them a chance to express their feelings.

Parents with children reacting to the news should:

  • Know all the facts: Parents should help their children cope with the attacks first by finding out how much they know about what happened.

  • Know yourself: Try to be aware of your own anxieties in order to know your child’s.

  • Know your child: Children may not have the verbal capacity to discuss their anxieties. Watch for new behavioral/physical manifestations of their fears. For example, your child may reveal his/her anxiety by not wanting to separate to go to school or camp.

  • Reduce media exposure: It’s important to filter the information that your child receives so that you can control the intensity of the reaction, instill in your child your sense of values and moral principles, and keep the lines of communication open and let them ask questions.

  • Build a plan: Children, no matter their age, are primarily concerned with safety “Am I safe? Is my family safe?” To allay their fears, work with your child to create a safety plan.

    Remember: World disasters are scary for adults and children alike. Always reach for more assistance when unsure of your next step.

    Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of nearly 40,000 foster children. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Sophy has lectured extensively and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute. His lectures and teachings are consistently ranked as among the best by those in attendance.

    Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the “Keep ‘Em Off My Couch” blog, provides real simple answers for solving life’s biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at http://drsophy.com

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