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Information Age: when and how to talk to kids about current events

It seems we can’t turn on the TV or look at our phones these days without a barrage of images and information that can be frightening, upsetting and downright maddening. Having 24/7 access to world events can be emotionally draining and can cause anxiety especially for children, who lack the context behind the sound bites.

If your child or teen seems unduly upset by what they’re seeing in the news, talk to them about what they’re feeling. Validating a child’s fears, while also offering some coping strategies, can help alleviate anxiety and prevent it from manifesting in other areas of their life. Some practical tips to help:

  • Keep it age appropriate, especially with young children. Don’t offer more information than what they have context for. Let them ask questions that are important to them and let them lead the conversation.

  • Limit consumption. It’s so hard to really unplug, especially when our work and school rely so heavily on screen time. Make an effort to limit screens for kids and challenge yourself to stop doom-scrolling through the news every day.

  • Turn it off. It’s amazing what they can show on TV these days, and not all of the images and rhetoric are appropriate for everyone in your living room. It’s okay to tell your children that some news items are not age appropriate.

  • Have a buffer. Sleep is so important to recharging our minds and bodies, especially for children. Turn off screens and redirect conversations away from upsetting topics before going to bed each night.

  • Refocus. Even for adults, world events can leave us feeling helpless. Talk to your children about how they can focus their attention on productive efforts such as fundraising or volunteer- ing so they can feel like they’re contributing to positive change.

  • Reach out. If your child seems unusually upset or anxious about world events, and it is impacting their schoolwork, social life or daily living, they should speak with a qualified counselor for additional support.

For the most part, children and teens just want reassurance, but it’s also okay to admit to them that you also find some events upsetting. Talking through their concerns and letting them know they are safe in your care can go a long way to easing anxiety.


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