Helping Children Cope With Tragic Events in the News
- by Christina Richardson
The way that news is presented on television can be very confusing for a young child. Katrina + 10 coverage reminded us of the devastation through words, and images. Our young children have been watching this coverage and the replays of the events of August, 2005. Do they comprehend that these are old and not new images?
The world is witnessing a massive refugee crisis on television and small children are watching. Events keep getting repeated and most young children cannot tell the difference between what’s real, what’s pretend and what is new information and what is not.
Mind, Body, Spirit
Many of my clients for the next few years were children who had seen the results of the attack, in person and over and over on television. They did not realize what they saw was a repeat and thought that “lots of planes were crashing.”
Children can learn to cope with many disturbing things in life as long as they have caring adults on hand who want to help them.
Even if children don’t mention what they’ve seen and heard in the news, it can help to ask what they think has happened. You may be surprised at what they have heard and their interpretation of the events.
One of my resources in working with these children was a wonderful book published by Family Communications, Inc. It is the “Mister Rogers Parenting Book.”
In addition to the chapter on tragic events in the news, the book has a section on everyday experiences such as making friends, learning readiness, everyday rules and limits; a section on first experiences, including going to the doctor, the new baby and starting kindergarten; and a section on special challenges like moving, divorce, and dealing with death.
When there is crisis and it is all over the news, try to keep yourself calm. Give your child extra comfort and physical affection. Plan something you enjoy together, like taking a walk, going on a picnic, or doing something silly. It can help to know that there are simple things in life that can help us feel better.
An excellent resource from the National Institute of Mental Health is a brochure entitled “What Can Parents Do”