About Jacqueline Toner, Ph.DJacqueline B. Toner, PhD, is the co-author of a number of books for children and teens addressing social and emotional challenges. She practiced clinical psychology for over three decades serving children, teens, and families. Dr. Toner lives in Baltimore, MD, with her husband. They have three married daughters and two grandsons.
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 becomeRead More