Tips to Help Your Child Manage Scary News

Whether from television news reports, the car radio, digital media, or adult discussions, children are often bombarded with information about the world around them. When the events being described include violence, extreme weather events, a disease outbreak, or discussions of more dispersed threats such as climate change, children may become frightened and overwhelmed.  The latest installment in the bestselling What To Do series, What to Do When the News Scares You: A Kid’s Guide to Understanding Current Events by Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD, provides a way to help children put scary events into perspective. And, if children start to worry or become anxious about things they’ve heard, there are ideas to help them calm down and cope. This book also helps children identify reporters’ efforts to add excitement to the story which may also make threats seem more imminent, universal, and extreme. This adapted excerpt from the Introduction to Parents and Caregivers provides strategies to help kids understand and process the messages around and to put scary events into perspective. Keep these tips in mind as you help your child through scary times:  Children’s ability to cope with scary events varies with age and with the child.  Limit young children’s exposure to news stories as much as you can. When you are unable to limit their exposure due to your own needs for information, be available to interpret messages for them.  Consider how you access news and how that may impact children nearby. Reading news on your own is the least likely to accidentally transfer information to children; television news is more likely to include frightening visuals and sound effects. Listen to the child’s concerns before offering explanations. Ask what they have heard and what that information means to them. You may uncover misperceptions and unfounded fears which need correcting. Tell the truth but gently. Don’t brush off a child’s concerns but present hopeful information with the truth. Include information about how the event is being dealt with and people are being cared for. Be careful not to let your own fears result in sharing information based upon speculation about possible future developments.  Help your child put the event in perspective. While you may have a sense that a threat is far away, limited in scope, being managed, or even in the past, don’t assume that your child understands this.  Comment to your child about the ways in which news reports may be making things seem more dire than they are.  Help older children become active consumers of the news by teaching them which news sources can be trusted and why. Be sure to point out sources of information that are likely to be misleading, especially online.  Remind the child that you and other adults around them will keep them safe. Use concrete examples when you can.  Maintain routines and don’t let news intrude on normal daily activities (no TV news during dinner).  Encourage children to employ coping strategies designed to reduce over excitement and anxiety if they become

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Tips to Help Your Child Manage Scary News 2022-05-25T10:59:43-04:00

Saying No to Friends: Helping Kids Be True to Themselves

Friends are important to kids. Sometimes the need to make their friends happy or to fit in gets in the way of their own happiness. They might be afraid that their friends won’t like them anymore if they disappoint them in some way. They might try so hard to be liked that they forget to take care of themselves.  You Can’t Please Everyone! by Ellen Flanagan Burns explores this challenging situation by following a character named Ellie, who struggles with this aspect of friendship. It’s a hopeful, helpful story for kids who need reassurance that they can be nice to others and be true to themselves. Here are some tips from an adapted excerpt of the introduction, entitled Dear Reader.  It’s not your job to:  Please People  When you try to please people, it feels good at first because it makes them happy, but that good feeling doesn’t last very long. Always worrying about what people think is exhausting! It’s much better to just be yourself and trust that’s enough for your friends.  Be Liked  The truth is, the way somebody feels about you isn’t really your concern. The way YOU feel about you is. So, be your best YOU. It’s OKAY to be yourself and say “no” to others. Do It All  You can’t do it all, and your good friends don’t expect you to. You’ll feel happier and more confident when you do what feels right instead of what you think someone else wants you to do. It is your job to: Be Kind  It feels good to be kind and help others when you can. That’s different than trying to please people. Do the thing that feels right rather than the thing that makes others like you. When we do what feels right, it gives us a good feeling that lasts. Be Yourself  There’s no one else like you. Whether you are silly, sweet, quiet, smart, shy, funny, talkative, or outgoing (or all of the above at different times), BE YOURSELF! That’s enough. You’ll learn to speak up for yourself in a way that is friendly and true to yourself.  Choose Your Friends Wisely  People who expect you to make them happy rather than being yourself can be difficult to get along with. They may blame you when things don’t go their way. These kinds of friends can bring out the people-pleasing side of you. Find friends who lift you up, not bring you down. Find friends who like you just the way you are. 

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Saying No to Friends: Helping Kids Be True to Themselves 2022-05-10T14:20:14-04:00

When Things Go Boom! Helping Your Child With Their Fear of Storms

Storms are a very common childhood fear. They are loud, unpredictable, and out of human control, which can feel very scary to children. Julia Martin Burch, PhD, offers some tips for parents to support children who are afraid of storms in the Note to Readers from Booma Booma Boom by Gail Silver.  Validate Their Emotions Let your child know that it’s ok that they feel afraid of thunderstorms. Well-intentioned parents sometimes minimize a child’s fear in hopes that the child will stop worrying, but dismissing an emotion tends to have the opposite effect. The child does not feel heard or taken seriously and as a result, often has an ever bigger emotional reaction. Instead, it is helpful to say something like, “I understand that you feel very scared when you hear thunder” or “you’re really worried about a storm coming tonight.” By communicating that you understand your child is afraid, you help them feel heard, which is soothing.  By communicating that you understand your child is afraid, you help them feel heard, which is soothing.  Educate Share age-appropriate information about storms with your child. For example, in the story, the main character reminds himself that rain helps plants grow and that thunder isn’t dangerous, but is just surprising when it arrives suddenly. Consider sharing interesting storm facts, such as that thunder is the sound caused by lightning or that light travels faster than sound, so we see lightning before we hear thunder.  Teach Your Child to Self-Soothe Kids feel more confident facing fears when they know how to calm themselves down. Teach your child how to soothe themselves in scary moments.  Focusing on a particular sense and engaging in a pleasant activity using that sense is a great place to start. For example, they might look at pictures of a loved one or a fun vacation, listen to a calming song or white noise machine, smell a comforting object or scented lotion, or focus on a cool drink of water. Coach them to fully focus on the sense and how the activity makes them feel when they try it. Get curious afterward about which helped them feel most calm.  It can also be helpful to focus on one thing in the environment, such as watching the raindrops as the character does in the story. Try to make this activity game-like, for example guessing which raindrop will make it to the bottom of the pane first.  Finally, teach your child to take slow, calming breaths into their belly when they are afraid. A fun way to teach this skill is by putting a stuffed animal on your child’s belly and having them raise it up and down with their breath.  No matter which strategies you teach your child, it is best to teach them for the first time in a calm moment (i.e. not in the middle of a thunderstorm!). Practice the strategies often with your child so that they are very familiar with them and can call on them

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When Things Go Boom! Helping Your Child With Their Fear of Storms 2022-03-03T16:28:47-05:00