When the news is scary, how do I talk to my kids?

As a child psychologist and mother, I still struggle with the right words to share with my child – and I’m struggling especially hard this week.
How much do I share about the violence and chaos in Ferguson following yesterday’s Grand Jury announcement, as well as attempt to explain the “why” behind it? How do I explain the distrust and anger many feel toward police officers, figures I was raised to believe keep us safe?
As parents, we need to recognize what our own core values are with regard to safety and authority, and communicate those values to our kids – preferably during times of calm, not emotional upheaval.
And when times are scary, you can use some of the following tips to communicate with your children:

  1. Try to be in charge of what and how your child learns about the event.  In general, it is a good idea to limit children’s exposure to traumatic news stories and images.  While adults may desire to stay informed, it is best to turn off the television when children are present.  Inquire about how teachers are handling the news with students so you can monitor their exposure at school.
  2. When exposure is unavoidable, provide basic information about what happened at an age appropriate level.  Brief, basic facts are typically appropriate for younger children, while older children and teens may have more questions.  Don’t overwhelm young children with too much information, but be sure to address questions as they arise. My colleague Dr. Kelly Ross has some practical advice to help parents share news about death.
  3. Do not assume that the child’s worries and questions are the same as your own.  Each child will understand and react differently.  This will vary to some extent with age or developmental level, personality and pre-existing anxiety, and the manner in which the information is presented.
  4. Use open-ended statements and questions such as “Tell me what you know” and “What questions do you have?” rather than “Do you understand what happened?” and “Do you have any questions?”  This will help you get a better sense of the child’s understanding, worries and desire for more information.
  5. Acknowledge the events in a calm way and provide reassurance about the child’s own safety and security.  Be honest – don’t tell children something “could never happen” here, or to them – but minimize anxiety by talking about the relative likelihood and the isolated nature of this particular event.  Focus on their parents’ and caregivers’ ability and efforts to keep them safe from harm.
  6. Keep your own emotions in check.  Exposure to scary news is upsetting and overwhelming for adults.  It is natural to be emotional at times.  However, children look to their parents and other significant adults for a sense of whether or not things are “o.k.”  Parents often serve as a child’s “barometer” regarding their own safety and security.  It is important for parents to manage their own stress level and to have other adults to talk to about the news.

As I watch the footage unfolding in Ferguson and around our community, perhaps a final note of advice I can give is to remember when you’re angry and scared, the part of the brain responsible for thinking and judgment is not working well.  When upset, people often just react and this can make a bad situation worse.  Being a part of a group can create a lot of good feelings – -participating in a peace rally or cheering on the Cardinals, for example. But in times of stress and confusion, mob behavior can cause people do to things they wouldn’t normally do. Walk away from the chaos until you can clear your head and make safe choices.

If you feel like your child is struggling particularly hard, you can call 314.454.8336 for advice, or 314.454.5437 to schedule an appointment.

Talking to kids about scary news

Courtesy: KSDK

As a child psychologist and mother, I still struggle with the right words to share with my child – and I’m struggling especially hard this week. How much do I share about the violence and chaos in Ferguson following yesterday's Grand Jury … [Continue reading]

Flu Fighters

It’s that time of the year. Flu season is upon us once again! In St. Louis, we are already seeing Influenza B cases in the emergency rooms and clinics. Flu season comes around regularly. Some years it is worse than the others. The CDC reports that … [Continue reading]

The newest vaccine on the block – do your kids need another shot?

Medical care

It only takes hours for the meningococcus bacteria to kill a child who was previously perfectly healthy. It is the reason the word “meningitis” strikes fear in the heart of parents everywhere. Most meningitis is caused by viruses and though it can be … [Continue reading]

7 tricks to avoid getting sick this Thanksgiving

Thanksgivinggerms

Every year our ER gets busy right after Thanksgiving—‘tis the season for crying toddlers with fevers, runny noses, and diarrhea.  It’s no coincidence, there are real reasons why illness spreads during the holidays.  Here are seven tricks to keep your … [Continue reading]

Could your child have diabetes?

Ashlynn with “Jerry” the diabetic bear helping children with diabetes

A child with type 1 diabetes will receive a minimum of 1,460 injections a year. Kiaro was diagnosed with diabetes on September 12 2014. He’s not letting it stop him from playing basketball. He says, “Diabetes doesn’t stop you from being athletic. … [Continue reading]

Baby Talk – How moms’ and dads’ voices make baby smarter

BabyTalk

There is a moment in the delivery room when the new mother first talks to her baby--usually just seconds after birth when the wet, crying infant is placed on mom’s abdomen.  I get the pleasure of watching the joy in the new mom’s eyes, and hearing … [Continue reading]

Separation Anxiety in Young Children

separation anxiety

We’ve all been in the situation where our toddler or preschooler is crying when we try to leave them.  It can be heartbreaking! Each child has individual differences, though most all children demonstrate some uneasiness about leaving mom and dad at … [Continue reading]

11 medical decisions to make for your baby before delivery (or someone else will make them for you)

CordBlood

You’ve educated yourself about pregnancy and made choices for your labor and delivery, but are you prepared to make medical decisions for your baby?  In the first few hours of your baby’s life you will need to make 11 medical decisions for your tiny … [Continue reading]

Social Hosting: Who’s responsible?

social hosting

"Well, teenagers are going to drink anyway so why not let them drink where it can be supervised and controlled?" I often hear adults who practice social hosting say something along these lines.  These adults believe that giving alcohol to minors … [Continue reading]

nasal polyps treatment miracle review . book of ra online . download audacity free