Dear Barb—News Kid on the Block

Dear Barb:

I am a mother of a 7-year-old daughter.  My husband and I are news addicts.  We always have CNN on in the background when we are home.  Often my daughter is in the room playing or drawing while the news is on.  I assumed she wasn’t listening to the TV, but I was wrong.  One evening last week she asked me if there could be an earthquake where we live.  Her question floored me.  We live in a high-rise apartment building, much like the ones that came down in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.  I assured her that doesn’t happen in our part of the world, but I don’t know if that was the right thing to say.  I know there have been small earthquakes in Ontario where I live, but I guess anything is possible.  What would be the best way to handle this while also being as truthful as I can? Looking forward to your reply.  Thanks, Andrea.

Hello Andrea:

There is no way to avoid children being upset and disturbed by some of the scary things going on in the world today.  It is a good practice to be aware of what is on the TV even when you are not watching.  It’s also good practice to turn it off when no one is watching.  You might also choose to watch the news with your children so you can answer any questions or fears they may have about what they are seeing and hearing.  Children’s fears are usually surrounding whether the event they are watching could happen to them or their family, and what will happen to them.  At this point, you can reassure them that you and other family members will protect them and make them as safe as possible.

Describe to your child all the ways that you and her father are keeping her safe and discuss what she could do when confronted with a scary situation.  Be open to questions your child may have and assure them that what they are feeling is perfectly normal.  Explain what happened in as much detail as you feel your child can comprehend.  A child under seven will process events much differently than a teenager.  Interpret what the media is portraying in simple understandable terms.  The media does tend to be dramatic, and they often play scenes repeatedly.  For example, make sure your family has a plan of action prepared in case of a fire or other event.

Finally, encourage your daughter to look for heroes or helpers.  These are the people that help people to survive these horrific events, and they are everywhere, as we can see with the earthquake in Syria.  Our role as parents is to assist children to become strong and resilient adults.  There will be many more scary events that your child will be faced with, and these behaviours will help them to learn to overcome them.

Hope this information was helpful, and best of luck Andrea.

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