Media Reports of Violence & Your Kids: What You Can Do
With a heavy heart, Clifford Beers writes this post to help families process what has become a steady -- and very, very scary -- stream of gun-driven violence. The climate is unsettling for adults and can have far greater negative impact on young people.
This writing is limited to families not directly threatened or affected by gun violence but who will be exposed to news regarding individuals killed, injured or suffering. How can a family manage news coverage, social media reports, and even discussions among children themselves regarding these events?
Start by thinking about the presence of media reports in your household. Stories of gun violence (as well as bombings and other violence-induced mass casualty events) can increase fear and anxiety in children, and the more time spent watching coverage of tragic events, the more likely children will have negative reactions. Graphic images, chaos, injury and death upset children, and very young children who see the same video repeatedly may think the event is ongoing or even happening over and over again.
Parents and caregivers, then, must be proactive. Here's what you can do:
Limit exposure -- The younger the child, the less the exposure. Turn off the TV, play games, or watch movies. Very young children should be spared exposure to the event(s).
If a kid or teen already knows about the event(s) -- What what they have watched, and discuss it. Ask what they've seen or heard so you can help them manage and process correct/incorrect information. Let the children lead these conversations so you don't erroneously offer information that might actually create more fear and concern.
Seize opportunity -- If you see something together, talk about it. Talk about safety plans and ask your children about their feelings and concerns. Listen, and respond thoughtfully to the issues they raise.
Monitor adult conversations -- Children listen to adult conversations and often misinterpret things. Keep adult discussions regarding these events away from little ears.
Talk about helpers -- Share positive images, e.g., people helping others in need. Offer assurance that many adults are actively working to ensure everyone's safety.
Learn -- There are resources everywhere on this topic. A good one is the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.nctsn.org.
Finally, if you think your child needs support, reach out. If you are unsure who can help you, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will gladly review your options in your community. For those in Greater New Haven, you can email us or learn about what we do and how we help at www.cliffordbeers.org.
We must stress that we offer this post with regret and sadness for the circumstances that give rise to it. To the families and communities impacted, please know we offer you our deepest sympathies.