With the recent siege at Lindt Café in Sydney’s Martin Place dominating media, it is challenging to shield our children from such distressing news and images.
Young minds that are still developing may struggle to process such complex and traumatic exposure to violent news events. With 24 hour news coverage streaming before their eyes, it may be difficult for them to sensibly assess their distance from the danger and if exposed to this type of tragedy they could develop post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Here are some ways we can help our children cope:
Reduce Media Noise
Whenever you can, resist the temptation to monitor unfolding situations with radio, television, tablet, smart phone or newspapers in front of children.
If possible, change your tv station to one that doesn’t feature news updates or put on a film.
Watch What You Say Around Them
It is easy to forget that children are expert eavesdroppers especially when they know something big is happening! If you are trying to shield them from events in the news, be aware of who may be listening when you are discussing the events with others. You could undo all your good work in one unguarded moment.
Help Them Understand The Media
With constantly updated reports and editorials appearing in media during and after a traumatic event, helping your children critically analyse news reports by explaining some of the language and techniques used by media to convey emotions such as fear and sadness them can help them gain greater perspective.
This is especially important in social media, where wild speculation and “Chinese Whispers” can morph a news event into scary and strange territory. You could ask your children what they may have seen and how they can assess may or may not be true. Teaching them to consider the source or authority would be a helpful tool for their critical assessment.
Talk With Them
If they already know, discuss the event with your children. What do they know and how do they feel about the event? Give accurate and age appropriate information about the event and how it makes you feel. Allow them to share their feelings and only interrupt to ask questions or correct incorrect statements.
If recent events have affected your children, they may exhibit signs of distress such as poor concentration, moodiness, altered appetite, not wanting to leave your side or disrupted sleep. Your best approach is to be kind and patient with them during this time as they settle. Should you have greater concerns or these issues persist, consult with your GP for assistance.
Events like the Martin Place Siege can change how children feel about society and people. This is the time to highlight stories about those who have helped [government, organisations, agencies, people] and the rare nature of these types of events to help counteract any feelings of insecurity or vulnerability.
Help your children look for the positives.
Mr Rogers, a beloved children’s tv host and educator, famously said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”