EARLY YEARS: Keeping kids informed, not over exposed is sometimes tough

Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 9:33 AM EDT
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With Hurricane Harvey, then Hurricane Irma, the past couple of weeks have brought some upsetting images to your TV screen.

As hard as it is for adults to watch sometimes, imagine how difficult it can be for children.

Jennifer Nolley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Family Services of Roanoke Valley.

She says preschoolers and younger children shouldn't have any exposure to disturbing images on the news. Nolley adds that

slightly older kids can understand what's happening, but it's important that they don't want too much.

"Elementary school aged kids, it's good for them to have some awareness to honest, factual information. It's so easy to get mythical or irrational ideas from peers. But limits are good," says Nolley.

Nolley says it's important for parents to discuss with their children what they see, since kids process tragic events differently.

So, how do you know if a child has watched too much?

Nolley says pay attention to see if kids are having anxiety over things that typically don't worry them.

"What if I don't get my lunch today? Or, what if it thunderstorms while I'm in school? It could be something unrelated . Generalized anxiety tends to just attach to something, not necessarily the rational thing," she says.

But seeing these stories of devastation isn't all bad.

It can actually help kids be more aware of others.

"I think it's helpful for building empathy, you know, to get kids involved in any kind of response effort that we're doing, so not just being exposed and watching all these trauma on TV, but how do we take action? How do we help people?," says Nolley.