The last year has presented all of us with so much devastating news to process. While these difficult times can be challenging for adults to deal with, they can be even tougher to navigate for children. Many parents and other child care providers may not be prepared to talk about these unprecedented recent events with their children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the event and present it in a way that their child can understand, adjust to, and cope with.
No matter what age or developmental stage the child is, parents can start by asking a child what they’ve already heard. After listening to them, you should ask them what questions they have. Older children, teens, and young adults might ask more questions and may request and benefit more from additional information. No matter what age the child is however, it’s best to keep the dialogue straightforward and direct.
In general, it is recommended to provide basic information with children so they can understand what’s going on, but avoid sharing any graphic or unnecessary details about tragic circumstances. You may need to keep young children away from repetitive graphic images and sounds that may appear on television, radio, or on-line. You may also need to monitor your child’s internet and social media activities.
In addition to monitoring what information your child consumes, it is also suggested that you are with them as they consume it. One tip is to record news programming and plan time to watch it with your children. By doing this, you can preview and evaluate the content ahead of time and take the opportunity to pause and discuss the information being shared and even potentially skip inappropriate content.
While it is important to understand that every child, regardless of their age or abilities be spoken to, it is also important to tailor the message you deliver to your child based their comprehension level. Children as young as four years old are entitled are entitled to accurate information, but might not require as many details as school-aged children or teens. Parents of children with developmental delays should understand that they might have specialized needs.
Signs of your child not coping well with certain current events may include problems sleeping or sudden changes in behavior including sadness, depression, or social regression. Younger children might experience separation anxiety while teens might start experiment with tobacco, alcohol, or other substances.
The most important thing to do when talking with your child is to reinforce that you are there for them and encourage them to come to you if they have any questions or concerns. They need to know that you will make it through these difficult times together.
If you feel your child may need professional help getting through recent events, Jamaica Hospital’s Psychiatry Department offers outpatient child and adolescent services. To make a virtual appointment with a member of our team, please call 718-206-5575.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.