Carrie Kubacki, Interim Family Living Educator, Langlade County UW-Extension
Children of any age, like adults, are exposed to traumatic events on television and all forms of mass media. In lieu of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida and ongoing coverage, it is important that to review how news events can traumatize our children and the steps we can take as adults to try and minimize worry and fear.
Depending on age and maturity level, we need to remember that some children may not be able to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Included in this concern are the number of children who have already been exposed to traumatic events in their lives and how visualizing disturbing and violent acts through media may cause them to relive their own trauma. Television and other forms of media can “shrink” the world around us and bring it directly into our homes. The world, our country, our state and our communities can begin to seem more dangerous to children than they really are. Young children to teenagers can wonder, “Could I be next?” and “Will this happen to me today?”
Parents and adult caregivers can help to minimize the trauma, fear and worry surrounding disturbing news events in the following ways:
- Limit the amount of traumatic news coverage that children can view on television and other forms of media. As stated above, every time a child views a disturbing event, they can be re-traumatized, producing more fear and anxiety.
- Be prepared to discuss the facts and truth about events—but only as much as children need to know based on their age, maturity level and ability to manage fear and worry.
- Give children space and time to share their feelings and fears. Encourage them to talk openly about not only news events, but also the worries that are affecting them in their own lives.
- Teenagers may need to discuss current events in a different way than younger children. Be open to discussing how media and news are produced and why traumatic events are covered in the way they are.
- Rather than waiting for traumatic events to occur, regularly watch the news and other forms of current events coverage with children. This can help to broaden the discussion of the world as a family.
- Ask children what you can do to help to manage their feelings, fears and worries and follow through with those steps. This will allow children to feel more in control and more secure in their lives.
Growing up and living in this world of continuous coverage of disturbing and traumatic events is challenging and difficult for children. How we manage these events as adults can make an immense difference in helping children to feel safe and secure. For more information on children and traumatic events, please visit The National Child Traumatic Stress Network at http://www.nctsn.org/.