Supporting your child around upsetting events /content
Talking, and reassuring your child around real-life topics such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, or something more personal happening in your own family is very difficult. These topics can be hard for us, as adults to get our heads around.
Children can encounter news stories, images, opinions, and ideas on a daily basis via online platforms such as facebook, Instagram and tiktok, on the TV, or in person.
Below is some ideas on how you can reassure your child when there seems to be difficult and upsetting events happening around them.
1) Find out what they know
What do they already know about the news they have heard? Listen to what they have to say, and this will help you understand how much what they have heard has affected them already.
2) Time and a place
Think about when is most appropriate to start these kinds of conversations with your children. Try to find a time when they are relaxed, and have your full attention. Not when they might be stressed about something else such as a test, or if they are about to go to sleep. Also, think about the location, somewhere where your child feels comfortable, and feels safe, as they might get emotional.
3) Keep it age appropriate.
Keep the conversation general, and try not to go into too much detail, especially with younger children.
4) Emphasise hope.
Try to find stories of hope, generosity and strength related to the event you are discussing. Talk to your child about what they can do to help or support.
5) Monitor their reaction.
Be aware of their reactions and body language. Allow them to express their own emotions in a safe, non-judgemental space.
6) Consider your own emotions.
We, as adults can also find the events of the world around us upsetting. Children develop coping skills by mirroring people around them, so if you are able to regulate, and manage your own emotions, it will help support them through worrying times.
7) Set limits.
It is hard to manage screen time and content at the best of times, but even harder when there is an event going on (such as the start of the pandemic). It becomes virtually impossible to keep your child away from content around this, but at least we can limit their exposure by using parental controls, talking about the dangers of harmful content, and enforcing screen times.
8) Take things slow.
Try not to overwhelm your child with information. Explain things one-step at a time. The first conversation should just be a simple introduction to what is going on, and then maybe wait until your child is ready, or wants to talk about it again
9) Encourage Questions.
Allow your child to be able to discuss with you openly about what they saw, rather than being angry with them for watching it. Children are still learning that everything they hear in the real world, and online is not always accurate. We want our children to be able to come to us for information, without them relying on their devices.
10) Find a balance.
Remind your child that it is healthy to take a break from their phones, and sometimes from what is happening in the world, and focus on doing something more positive. This will prevent them becoming overwhelmed by negative news.
11) Build resilience.
While our instinct may be to shield a child from upsetting content, it’s important they develop the tools to be able to cope with this, as they get older. Make sure your child knows they can always talk to you, especially if they are upset, or have seen something upsetting.
12) Identify help.
Encourage them to open up to a trusted adult, and make sure they know whom these are. It’s important a child does not feel like they are alone, and that there is always help available if and when they need it.
CBBC Newsround is an excellent and trusted resource for news stories, and explaining them at a child friendly level. It also has links to several good mental health support resources.
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