The world is a scary place sometimes. With access to non-stop news everywhere we turn it seems like there are constant references to school shootings, attacks in public places and armed intruders. Many adults find these stories upsetting and children are often drawn into seeing and hearing about these same disturbing events.
How can we protect our elementary school age (and younger) children from becoming overwhelmed with fear and anxiety? Following are a few tips to help your family:
- Keep some perspective yourself. Bad things have always happened in the world, but we didn’t have the kind of almost immediate information sharing that modern media brings.
- Talk honestly with your child but at their level of understanding. Don’t give more detail than they are ready to handle. Keep it simple. (“Sometimes bad people do hurt others. I work very hard to always keep you safe.”)
- Turn off the constant media flow. It’s important to limit how much negative information your child hears.
- Be aware of your own conversations with others. Children tune into more than many adults realize.
- Watch for signs that your child is experiencing anxiety. Changes in sleep, eating habits, or difficulties at school are three common indicators.
- Be the good in the world. Look for ways to take action in a positive way to counter the negative. When appropriate, include your child in taking some action. Feeling helpless about something contributes to anxiety over the issue.
- Remember that you are the rock in your child’s world. If you find yourself slipping into fear and anxiety yourself, get help. Your children will look to you for cues on how to react to events.
- Share positives. Watch for stories that focus on kindness, giving, warmth, and sharing friendship.
The world can be scary but it’s also a big wonderful place full of kind-hearted people. Help your child learn to look for the good and you will help them better balance their understanding of how to go about daily living.