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Are Your Children Overwhelmed By The News?

Lori Freson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

News is everywhere. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, it’s always right there in your face. Therefore, this means that you cannot completely shield your children from it. You no longer have to turn on the TV and put it on a news channel to hear the news. If you have a phone, the news finds you, right there on your screen. Constant banners and updates flash across your device, not to mention all the stories you see on your social media feeds. Even on the best day, it’s enough to overwhelm just about anyone, especially a child.

When the story trending is one about senseless violence, with many victims, it can become unbearable. Many people get sad or even depressed hearing these awful stories. When children are harmed, or innocent people who were simply gathered to enjoy a concert, it sometimes gets to be too much.

You are human, and it is normal for you to have a reaction to what is going on in the world around you. Similarly, your children will have a reaction, which could look like sadness, fear, or even anxiety. But, other than crawling into a hole with no phone and completely isolating yourself and your family from the world, what can you do to protect everyone and not have to feel so bad?

Here are some things you can do when you are overwhelmed by violence in the news.

  1. Turn off the TV. Especially if you have young children. You should try to shield young children from upsetting images and stories as much as possible.
  2. Don’t ignore what is happening in the news, but discuss it in an age-appropriate manner. With young children, this could be something like, “A bad guy did a bad think and it hurt a lot of people”. For teenagers, it could be more like, “Did you hear about that crazy guy who shot all those innocent people?”
  3. While acknowledging that a terrible thing happened, remember to point out to your children that there is more good in the world than evil. Show them uplifting stories of people doing good things. Young children still like heroes, so find examples to share.
  4. Allow yourself to feel something. It is okay to cry or get angry or whatever it is your are feeling. You are a person with feelings, and some stories just elicit that response. It’s okay. This feeling won’t last forever. Explain to your children what you’re feeling and why.
  5. If they are finding it hard to get their minds off the news and they keep perseverating over it, try to distract everyone for a little while with something uplifting and funny. Watch a funny movie or TV show, play a game, or read a funny book. You can even listen to some upbeat music.
  6. Reach out to others. Difficult times often bring people and communities together. Cling to your family and friends. Talk about it often. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Support each other.
  7. Arrange a talk at your child’s school, or encourage older kids to arrange this, led by an adult, where kids and adults can have real conversations about what’s happened and how to deal with it.
  8. Take action together. Whether it’s writing letters to political leaders, getting involved in an organization for a cause, or any number of other ideas, taking action is empowering. Teach your children not to be silent and just allow things to happen. Encourage them to speak up and help shape the kind of country and world that they want to live in.

Similarly, when the news is all about natural disasters and things that are out of your control, it is common to feel sad and even scared. Talk to others, get involved in helping victims any way you can, and most importantly, take the time to think about being prepared for your own emergency. Talk with your family about creating a safety plan for your. Not only can it help keep you safe if a disaster ever happens, it can lessen everyone’s anxiety knowing that your family is prepared.

So many things in this world are out of our control. One of the hardest things we have to teach our children is that bad things do happen, and life is not really fair. But they do not have to be innocent bystanders. Their generation is our future of leaders, teachers, technology and more. Encourage them to use the power they have to make the world a better place. And remember to look around and see all the goodness that surrounds you.

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Lori Freson

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.