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Parents can reduce their children’s fear and anxiety over current events with thoughtful and clear discussions.

Navigating kid conversations during scary times

Friday, January 8, 2021

In moments of civil unrest and unsettling current events, Oklahoma State University Extension specialists are encouraging parents to minimize their children’s exposure to video screens and news reports with disturbing images.

Evidence shows media coverage can retraumatize youth and cause them to feel more emotion and stress, said Amanda Morris, an OSU Extension child development specialist.

“For all children and adolescents, having news playing in the background of your home is not good. It only causes more anxiety,” she said.

Instead, age-appropriate, open conversations with children are comforting and can calm their nerves. Statements such as, “I will do all in my power or all that I can to make sure you are safe,” are helpful in reassuring them, Morris said.

When discussing intense news events, parents should help children label and understand their feelings. From fear and uncertainty to confusion or loneliness, parents also can share their emotions and validate how those feelings are normal and justified. Morris said it’s important to answer questions and explain what happened in a clear and simple way.

“When describing this week in Washington, D.C., you could say ‘There are some people who are upset about the results of the election, so they gathered at the U.S. Capitol. We always want to respect public property and be careful around special places like churches and museums. We never want anyone to feel unsafe,’” Morris said.

From a political aspect, parents should try to ensure the news that older children are processing is accurate. The amount of information shared on television and social media is overwhelming, and parents shouldn’t be afraid to gently correct their kids on the facts.

“With adolescents, you want to make sure they know the truth,” she said. “It can be a difficult conversation but a great opportunity to discuss democracy and how elections work.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Ellis | Agricultural Communications Services | 620-515-2498 | gail.ellis@okstate.edu

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