“If you have school aged children, it’s pretty likely that they have been exposed to some of the disturbing news of these past few weeks. Every era has its ups and downs — war, natural disasters, economic trouble, social problems and crime. But what distinguishes today from any other era is our instant access to these devastating events. it is particularly important to consider the impact of disaster media cues on children.” The continuous new’s clips and updates is a reminder to a child that something frightening can happen. The tone of alarm or seeing frightening images can be very terrifying. Given a child’s perspective of time and place, there may be little ability to differentiate how close they are to what they are seeing. As we found with 9/11, children are often unable to determine that what they are seeing is a repeat of the same video clip and not more planes or waves or houses blown away.
Ideas for Helping your child with anxiety:
1. Talk to your children about their worries. Provide a validating environment where the child can express their concerns and feelings.
2. Give kids realistic information at a level they can understand. Reframe and explain on his/her level what is being discussed and what is happening. Ask for questions.
3. If you live in an area that is likely to face some type of natural disaster, learn about the risks, prepare for the possibility, and make a family plan for emergencies.
4. Avoid telling them nothing bad can ever happen. Giving them a false sense of security actually increases anxiety because it is a unrealistic view of what can be controlled.
5. Follow the child’s lead. Some want to talk about it, some will be quiet. Spend time together doing activities or playing. This provides a time for informal sharing but more importantly it increases feelings of security.
6. Teach children the skill of confronting their thoughts. Just because we think something doesn’t mean it is true. Anxiety feeds on negative thoughts so help them learn how to replace their scary thoughts with reaffirming statements. Teach distraction techniques: playing with toys, exercising, singing a favorite song, etc.
7. If your child’s anxiety affects their ability to function on a daily basis or is persistent for longer than thirty days, seek professional help.
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