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Talking to Your Child about Scary News
Talking to Your Child about Scary News

Hurricanes, mass shootings, wildfires. We are too often surrounded by scary events, which can threaten to overwhelm even grownups. As adults, it's hard to make sense of all these tragedies. How do we talk to our kids about these tough topics, especially if they are asking questions?

Recently, the Washington Post published an article with helpful advice about helping kids cope with barrage of scary news.

From the article, here are five ways to talk with your children about current events, even if you yourself are overwhelmed:

  1. Check in often, but from a place of assurance, not anxiety. Children notice our anxiety and it feeds theirs. Checking in with them from a place of assurance instead might sound something like: "There's so much craziness in the news — what's caught your attention?
  2. Remind them of the values that guide your family. Tell them what you believe and why. Tell them instability always brings an opportunity for kindness. Acknowledge that there is indeed a lot of suffering — but there is also a lot of helping. You might say, "When things feel shaky in the world, our family shows up. We stand up for what we think is right. We look out for people.
  3. Model boundaries and choices. Show children that you are in charge of your media intake. When you switch off the news, narrate what you're doing: "I'm turning this off. When I watch too much, it stresses me out. When I focus on what I can do to help, it makes me feel useful." This tells your children it's okay to be stressed and shows that people can choose how much information to let into their world when they're overwhelmed.
  4. Don't minimize fear or anxiety. Always make space for whatever children are feeling. If you need to set a limit, tie it to the expression of the feeling, not the feeling itself. "I can tell you're really upset, but you can't take it out on your brother. What you can do is talk to me about it, or go for a run."
  5. Keep rituals and routines intact. Children rely on routines and predictability for a sense of safety within their little universe. Build in comforting rituals that generate energy, laughter, joy and a sense of purpose.

In addition, here is a simple yet powerful quote from Mr. Rogers:

Always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers.

Should you find you or child needs some extra support at any time, please feel free to reach out to our school counselor, Jessica Kwerel.

And don't forget to check out the APF podcast! Episode 8 highlights helping kids manage fear: