EARLY YEARS: Helping kids cope with traumatic world events

While it’s important to talk about current events with your kids, how much news exposure is too much?
Expert says parents need to offer guidance to children, and limit some access to traumatic world events
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 5:27 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Images like those of the ongoing violence in the Middle East and other parts of the world are disturbing to many of us.

“It’s overwhelming for me, as an adult, just watching it, listening to it, that constant barrage of information,” says professional counselor and trauma specialist Decca Knight.

Overwhelming for adults, but imagine how it might impact children? Knight says since kids are typically less resilient, and too much footage can cause anxiety and fear.

“Kids are coming in and out of the living room. They’re hearing it. They’re watching it. And I think it’s really important for our families to be more aware when the news has the stuff that it does right now to be more aware of how much your kids are taking in of that,” says Knight.

So, how much news is too much? Knight says it depends on the age and development of the child. It’s up to parents to offer perspective.

“At the elementary level, like having a very general discussion, saying, ‘Hey buddy, you may hear things from your friends. You may hear things on the bus. There are some things going on in another part of the world that may be very scary and I just want to let you know that you can always come talk to me,’ and just open up that dialogue,” says Knight.

As the child gets older, Decca says parents can usually offer more details.

“You know your children best. If your child has generalized anxiety, maybe they don’t need as much information, but they still need some information,” says Knight.

But having a dialogue is important.

“Because when a child doesn’t have information, they create their own stories and their own narrative,” she says.

Parents should focus on facts, not fear, but Knight says let children know what they’re feeling is okay.

“Let them know it’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to be scared. And I want you to know that I’m here for those time when you’re feeling that it’s too much information for you,” says Knight.