With the recent Paris attacks, ever growing threat of ISIS, the suicide attacks in Beirut, the migrant crisis and the list goes on..our world is in trouble. Turn on any news station right now and it will instill anxiety in any adult. So how do we explain what is going on in the world to small children who may see images or hear snippets of the news?
As an adult, it is our job to protect our young children from hearing too much about the current world issues. Children are not emotionally equipped to process or deal with this type of information. It is challenging to shield them 100% as they will see images on the front cover of the newspaper, hear their friends talk about it or see images on the TV.
I do believe that children have a right to truthful information about what’s going on in the world but adults also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. We need to ensure that we inform them (if they see any images and start to ask questions) but keep it very light and brief.
Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions and be sensitive to their level of anxiety. No matter how mature your child is or how many questions they may ask, it is your role to not go into too much detail with them. I would also suggest limiting viewing news items in the home so you moderate your child’s exposure to tragic events and stressful images
When we’re seeing lots of confronting images, it can sometimes feel like the crisis is all around us. Kids may not distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality, and they may believe they’re in imminent danger. Explain to your children that Australia and the home they live in is safe.
When there is such a focus on all the horrific acts happening around the world, it is very important for children to know about the acts of bravery, generosity and kindness from ordinary people trying to help in Syria, Europe and right here in Australia.
Share stories of aid workers, community leaders and humanitarians who are doing their bit to help out.
It is very important that as parents, we do not display anxiety or fear around children. They will pick up on your own response to the news, so it helps them to know you’re calm and in control.
If you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people in your community but do not express your fear or pain to your children. They are too young to comprehend it or process it and it will in turn create great anxiety for them.
It’s important to know that we are not leaving children in a state of distress. As your conversation wraps up, try to gauge their level of anxiety by watching their body language, considering whether they’re using their usual tone of voice and watching their breathing. When children are frightened, they often have nightmares, have issues sleeping or start to display anxiety around going to school. Be on the look out for any changes in their behaviour.
Remind your kids they can have other difficult conversations with you at any time. You care, you’re listening and you’re available whenever they’re feeling worried. As their protector, ensure your children feel loved and safe and let them just enjoy being an innocent child!