Tuesday, October 4, 2022

When the news is scarier than the Boogeyman: How parents can help their kids process current events

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

It seems most of 2020 has been one scary news story after the other.

With kids spending more time indoors because of quarantine, it’s hard to keep them away from the television when the news is on. And not to mention news flooding the internet and social media.

Overload, you say?

What if what’s on the news is too scary for your kids?

“We can experience second-hand trauma and trauma through seeing events where another person is affected,” said Mackenzie Reed, a licensed counselor at the Healing Project in Williamsburg who specializes in play therapy with children and adolescence.

It can be tricky for children to readjust to the rules of their world because of the changes in social interaction due to the coronavirus.

With news headlines highlighting the uncertainty of the pandemic — and stories popping up on news feed about racism and police shootings — Reed said mindfulness of how much time we are spending watching the news helps not only kids process current events, but parents as well.

“We have a tendency to over-immerse ourselves in the news right now and whether or not our children are seeing what we are seeing, we are demonstrating whatever anxiety and worries we are walking away with and changing the tone of the home when we are immersing ourselves too much,” she said.

Parents can also reserve time for themselves to watch news reports later if they are concerned about their children seeing a scary news report or witnessing how their parents’ behaviors change.

“If we know we are not ourselves after we watch something that has us worried or concerned, then maybe we do that after bedtime, when our behavior isn’t going to be effective,” Reed said.

Dane Wendell is a counselor at Williamsburg Youth Counseling. He used to work in Baltimore Public School system counseling children but recently opened his practice in Williamsburg. He said depending on the environment kids live in, the news may not affect some children.

(WYDaily file)
(WYDaily file)

“One 7-year-old could be on the same maturity level as a 4-year-old and vice versa,” Wendell said. “Each kid is a little different, and each kid may want to know more or less information.”

Both Reed and Wendell stressed the importance of having open conversations with kids if you notice stressful behavior. Asking them what they know and what they want to know is an excellent start.

“I found that kids are pretty intuitive, so if they want to know more then they’ll ask for more,” Wendell said.

But not everything in the world is doom and gloom.

Reed said it’s important to take time to find the good, uplifting stories instead of only focusing on negative news stories.

“There is still so much good in our world,” Reed said. “Although these are the headlines and these are what’s gaining attention, there is still so much to be grateful for and be joyful about.”

The Healing Project is offering a four-session virtual group for parents called “Parenting in 2020.”

The sessions are in the evenings so parents can join after kids go to bed. For more information on The Healing Project and their telehealth services, visit their Facebook page or call 757-808-5250.

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