Children and News/Signs of Stress
Real Talks

Have you heard or seen the news lately? With instantaneous news through traditional means and through other avenues such as social media, it’s hard to filter the news our kids are receiving day in and day out. Much of the news in 2015 has been riddled with violence and the strongly debated political issues of our current times. With the talk of terrorism, gun control, and safety, how do our kids process the mainstream media? Undoubtedly, our children struggle with uncertainty and how this relates to their immediate world. This uncertainty can also cause unwanted anxiety as kids attempt to process what they see and hear around them. There is no “perfect” script to follow as we help our children process what they see and hear; however, there are definitely some strategies we can employ in talking with our kids about news. PBS Parents provides tips for “Talking with Kids About News” and also breaks down the topic in more defined age groups.

Children, particularly, may wonder if similar tragedies can impact them or their families. “They also interpret the news in personal ways. For example, when young children watch or listen to news reports about crime, bombings, and hurricanes, they may worry about their own safety. Because young children are not able to fully understand cause and effect and distance, it’s hard for them to make distinctions between an immediate threat and one that is far away,” states Diane Levin Ph.D. When children have listened to or been exposed to disturbing news, some may remain unaffected while others may exhibit signs of stress. Per the American Psychological Association, signs of stress may include:

  • Nightmares or inability to sleep

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Separation anxiety

  • The development of new fears

  • Sadness and/or anger

  • Loss of interest in routine activities

  • Struggle to concentrate

  • Somatic complaints (i.e. stomachaches, fatigue)

  • Irritability

  • Decline in school work

If excessive fear, anxiety, or other signs of stress linger in the weeks after a tragedy, this may be a signal that your child needs further help via his/her pediatrician or counseling services.

We all need to be mindful of our children and their exposure to news and current events. Although it may be in an adult’s nature to repeatedly tune-in to these events, we must consider the impact the news may have on our children. For healthy development, our children need to feel safe and secure and minimizing the amount of news a child receives and/or discussing the event(s) at an age-appropriate level will prove to be helpful in our children feeling more secure.