As news of terrorist attacks and plots dominate the television news stream, it can be difficult for parents to keep all of the disturbing images and details away from the eyes and ears of children.
The possibility of children being exposed to anxiety inducing news, whether at home or at school, can leave many parents wondering what they can do to calm the fears of their children, whether they are young or into their teen years.
Dr. Katherine Lamparyk, PsyD, a child psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, maintains that while most children are not overly concerned with terrorism, there is always a possibility that a child will become fearful or anxious over what they’ve seen on TV.
Lamparyk suggests that parents who are concerned about their children becoming fearful should avoid leaving the news on in the household around the clock.
“We definitely know that watching it, watching more on TV and anxiety are definitely related, so limiting their exposure can be helpful,” said Lamparyk.
Addressing fears based on age
How a child responds to their fears is both dependent upon the age of the child and their personality.
While some children will express their fears openly, others will be more subtle – asking to sleep with the lights on, or exhibiting headaches or stomachaches.
Lamparyk encourages parents to take a child’s age into consideration when addressing their concerns, and to also be specific with their advice.
“Instead of just telling them, ‘oh don’t worry,’ and providing simple reassurance, but to actually tell them why they shouldn’t be worried or how much worry there should be, and using probability and using statistics and using facts to help support that,“ said Lamparyk.
Let the child take the lead
Lamparyk also stresses that when parents talk to their children about fears and anxieties it is important to let the child lead the discussion, and for the parent to follow the child’s lead.