The world is a pretty rough place right now. On the nightly news is terrorism, shootings, natural disasters, threats of nuclear war, and bickering politicians. You feel stressed, worried, disturbed, and downright depressed when you think about it.
Can you imagine how your child feels?
You may think that your child is too young or doesn’t have the awareness of what she sees on the news.
That’s not true.
As a therapist, I see children roughly between the ages of 4-13, all with different levels of comprehension. A common thread among them is that they all have had some awareness (from parents, peers, or media) of the larger world.
I’ve treated children afraid of going to the mall out of fear of being shot. Other children I’ve seen will build weapons out of legos to defend themselves against the threat of a shooter, or they pour water over miniatures to process thru the hurricanes.
Children are aware. Chances are your child is too.
And the problem is not that your child is aware of what’s happening in the world. The problem is if you mishandle your child’s feelings about these events. Shutting down feelings and dismissing your child’s words or play means that you miss out on an opportunity to assist your child in understanding the world around her.
Ultimately, hearing your child’s words, helping her to process the meaning behind the events, and reassuring safety, are your major parenting tasks.
I know it’s tough to know what to say. Here are a few resources to help you with this task:
Excellent download with tips on how to talk to your child about stories that are in the news.
An easy to read article with specific tips on talking to your child about terrorism.
From the National Assocition of School Psychologists, this is a excellent list of tips for what you can do in the days after an act of terrorism occurs to help your child process through it.
A children’s book for school age children that helps children to process through difficult times, and what they can do to feel better in an age of uncertainty.
For children grieving the loss of a loved one.
A wonderful book for preschool age children about feelings. A great resource to help your young child to express him or herself.
Please comment below: How has your child responded to the news? What do you do to help him or her process it?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health.