MONDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Hurricanes. Earthquakes.
Floods. Tornadoes. Tsunamis. Terrorism. War. Predictions of Rapture
Current events have left adults reeling as one disaster seems to
come hot on the heels of the last with no relent and no apparent
end in sight.
Imagine, then, how kids are coping.
"For kids who are worriers, they see this stuff is everywhere," said Robin Goodman, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City and a member of the American Psychological Association. "They think, 'It can happen to anyone. We could be next.'"
Experts say parents need to be aware of the effect that the
daily drumbeat of disaster, natural or otherwise, can have on
children's sense of security and well-being, and be ready to
support kids who need help understanding how these events affect
Kids who have grown up in today's media-saturated environment
are more prone to be affected by news of disaster, said Todd
Walker, a psychologist in private practice in Cincinnati and a
member of the clinical faculty of the Wright State University
School of Professional Psychology.
"Even more now than in previous generations, there's less of a distinction between real life and what you see on TV," Walker said. "In this day and age, watching things online or on TV is just one step removed from the event itself."
This may be particularly true for preschool children, who aren't
yet media-savvy. "Young kids don't understand that it's the same
newsreel over and over," Goodman said of day-long coverage of a
particular event. "They think it's the same event occurring over
The effect of disaster coverage can be compounded for children
who are undergoing emotional trauma in their daily life, Walker
said. For example, kids whose parents are fighting and about to
divorce are much more likely to be affected by news coverage
before, during and after a hurricane or earthquake, like that
experienced in the eastern United States in the past week.
"At best, it would be, 'Uh oh, this could happen to us,'" he said. "But let's imagine we're kids: I'm 6 and you're 8, we don't know what is exactly going to happen with our parents and we're watching [a disaster unfolding] on TV. Our experience will be different than if we had a happy family life."
Walker and Goodman said the best thing parents can do to
reassure their children is to talk with them about the disaster
coverage in an honest and straightforward way.
"I always believe in asking, 'Hey, I saw you watching that show. What's that like for you?'" Walker said.
Parents may feel the need to hide their own feelings of anxiety
to better protect their kids, but Walker and Goodman cautioned
"Be honest in the communication as much as possible," Goodman said. "If you lie about it, they may feel they can't trust you."
It's better for parents to admit they're nervous, but then
reassure the child that everything will be all right, Walker said.
Give concrete examples of why the disaster couldn't happen to them
or lay out the steps you'll take to keep them safe if, in fact, the
Other tips for helping kids cope with news of disasters,
according to Walker and Goodman, include:
But also keep in mind that all kids are different. Some kids
might actually benefit from watching disaster coverage.
"Sometimes TV can create a bonding experience," Walker said, using the example of a young boy. "He sees somebody going through a disaster and it can actually be calming because he knows he's not the only person going through a rough time."
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human
Development has more about
helping kids cope with crises.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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