Be your child’s rock amid terror in the
Have you ever seen a piece of news that made your heart stop? Read a headline that made your stomach curl? Had to change the channel because the media coverage was so dramatic you couldn’t stop the tears? Have you ever turned on the news and the same story full of gory images that was on the day before is still being covered? Have you ever been watching the 5 o’clock news and wondered why the news anchor had to give such a graphic description of a tragedy?
Just in the past few years, I can recall times that I have had those moments of terror. Tsunamis wiping out thousands of people in an instant, buildings in the middle of our cities filled with people falling to the ground, assassinations of the world’s most evil men, natural disasters, terrorist acts, mass murders, bombings, deadly spread of disease, chemical attacks — even riots, looting and police clashes in normally peaceful neighborhoods where my family lives just down the road from us. The world can be a very scary place.
Now that I am a parent, I sometimes feel I experience these things twice. Once as me, and the second time through the eyes of my children. With every scary event that happens that is out of my control, I falter for a second in my thought that everything is okay and we are safe.
It is scary when I have to explain to my child why the news clip he inadvertently saw showed children dying of chemical burns. I am confused when I have to address the question as to why the tsunami wiped out hundreds of miles of coastline – including the people.
As a parent, it is up to me to be my children’s rock. I must give them an understanding of these events without causing unneeded anxiety. Not an easy task. While I realize there have always been evil and bad things in the world, I think the frequency of the reports through our current instant-media-style has given parents a new job duty in Censor Patrol.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages the adults in a child’s life to filter information about crises. Today’s constant stream of information is something we need to be aware of in our littlest members of society. We cannot prevent our kids from hearing about major events. They will see our TV and computer screens, hear about things at school or on the radio, they will see it on their own phones and tablets. What we need to do is present “…it in a way that our children can accommodate, adjust to, and cope with.”
Children react to news of scary events, stress and traumatizing events differently than adults. Be prepared to talk with children about these things. The AAP advises to first establish what a child has already heard. Be direct, and straightforward in giving information on an event. Second, address any questions they may have. Avoid graphic or unnecessary details. Be aware of older children’s access to media outlets and talk with them about what they may see or hear. Do not be too vague in the information, as the AAP points out children as young as four will hear about “major crisis events” such as the Boston Marathon Bombing somewhere other than at home. It is important for a child to be able to share their feelings and know that it is okay to be scared, bothered or sad.
More advice from professionals in children service areas includes recognizing signs of anxiety. Some children may react immediately to a situation while others may have trouble coping over time.
It may seem tempting to not tell children about a scary event or disaster. If something happens locally, or a major event that will be in the news repeatedly, it is of utmost importance that children first hear about it from a trusted adult. If the information is avoided or dismissed, children may have trouble trusting over big issues in the future.
I hope that there are no more scary headlines, and no more bad things that happen in this world. I hope we can be the rock we need to be for our children without having to prove it in such a manner.
An important and recently well recited way to find the good in any situation comes from one of children’s most famous advocates, Mr. Fred Rogers. “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.”