How to Protect Kids from Scary News
By Dr. Michele Borba
How to protect kids from scary news. Thanks to news feeds, viral videos and portable electronics, even very young children are sometimes exposed to news about tragic and frightening events. But helping your kids handle fear is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. If they know how to cope with fear, it will build their resiliency.
Start by taking five deep breaths yourself — if you’re anxious, your children will feed on that worry. Then assess what your child really needs to know based on her age and emotional maturity. A young child may just need a simple explanation: “There was a bad storm a long way from here. It’s very sad, but here’s what people are doing to help.” For an older child, start by asking, “What have you heard?” This will help get you on the same page and correct any misinformation. No matter their age, give kids only the facts they need to know at the moment.
If you notice signs of stress in your child — changes in eating or sleeping habits, trouble with schoolwork — help her cope in a way that works for her. Some children find it useful to imagine a safe, calm place that they can envision when they feel anxious; others might work out their stress through exercise, yoga or a mental mantra like, “I can handle this.”
Lastly, get in the habit of watching TV news or browsing news websites behind closed doors or after your kids are in bed. Hearing about frightening events can lead children to think the world is full of evil people. When you do talk about tragedies, focus on the goodness of others — police, heroic teachers, supportive communities. Better yet, incorporate “good news” times into your routine. Share fun news stories at dinnertime, and review the happy parts of the day at bedtime. This minimizes nightmares and helps your children see the world as a compassionate place.