Children, Anxiety, and the News

Children Anxiety and the News

Sometimes, I just have to turn the news off. It doesn’t matter how much I love being on top of the latest reports,and it’s too bad that I love analyzing political discussions. I’ve learned over the years what my parents figured out when I was a small child.

The news focuses on the world’s struggles.

Struggles need to be fixed.

I’m an educated American citizen who has the responsibility to change things.

Ergo, I need to fix the problems I hear about on the news. 

Is it exactly true? Absolutely not. I can’t fix everything that’s wrong with this world, so it doesn’t make sense that I even try. And yet, because of my OCD tendencies, I struggle greatly with moral dilemmas, even if they’re not mine. Blessedly, I’ve learned as an adult to monitor how much information I “download” at once. I can often tell when an anxiety attack is on the way, and when that’s happening, it’s not time to scan the latest news reports from my favorite news outlets.

Unfortunately, children with anxiety and OCD generally don’t have the same self-awareness that prompts them to shut off the flow of information. And it’s our job as adults to help limit the amount of “scary” information these kiddos receive. Can we shelter them from everything? No, and we shouldn’t try. And yet, there really is a threshold for each child, a limit to how much stressful material can be absorbed the way it should be.

For those children who struggle with anxiety, this threshold needs to be monitored even more closely for the sake of the child’s emotional and physical health. There are some things these children just don’t need to see.

Turning Off the News

My family didn’t have cable when I was young, so there was no 24/7 news channel to report all the horrible things that were happening in the world. My parents learned early on, however, that they needed to monitor how much I listened in on the 6 O’clock news.

Children (and adults) with OCD have an incredible ability to immediately imagine the worst-case Monitoring Children with OCD and Current Eventsscenarios in and situation. And those scenarios play out in our heads like a broken record. Where most people can read about rising oil prices, they’ll probably think about it for five minutes after the report, and again when they’re budgeting for gas or filling up their car, but it’s not the focal point of their day. People with OCD, however, don’t just stop thinking about it when the news hour is over. They can think about it all day and into the night when they’re trying to sleep.

Like I said, adulthood has been good in teaching me to monitor how much information I actually get throughout the day. I know I have a limit to how much bad news that I can take without having an anxiety attack over it. Children with OCD don’t have this ability. And to make things even worse, admitting their fears can be embarrassing, so it’s easier just to worry alone, to hide those fears. And that’s never healthy.

The KidsHealth article, “Helping Kids Handle Worry,” says,

“Sometimes kids worry about big stuff — like terrorism, war, or global warming — that they hear about at school or on the news. Parents can help by discussing these issues, offering accurate information, and correcting any misconceptions kids might have. Try to reassure kids by talking about what adults are doing to tackle the problem to keep them safe.”

The article also points out that we as adults need to be mindful of how we react to world events that are beyond our control. If we act stressed out or angry, the article says, our kids will probably react that way, too.

Allison Edwards, author of Why Smart Kids Worry, says in the interview,

“Smart kids worry because their minds take them places they aren’t ready to go emotionally.  They worry about going to college in third grade and about dying in kindergarten because they know these events will eventually happen. Intellectually they can understand these events, but emotionally they can’t process them, thus they worry.”

What Can We Do to Help Our Children Absorb Information from the World Around Them?

  • Limit News Exposure – If the 6 O’clock news is too much for your child, that might be a great time to have them help out in the kitchen or work on an art project out of hearing range of the TV.
  • Talk to Your Child – Talking to adults can help children learn to process the confusing information they’ve received throughout the day, particularly when it comes to scary world events. When your child sees that you can talk about a scary subject calmly and with peace, it can be comforting. While your assurances probably won’t erase their fears immediately, they can definitely help prevent the fears from becoming worse.
  • Give Your Child a Children’s Newspaper – Children with anxiety are often extremely curious. Instead of cutting them off from current events completely, you can introduce them to news sources written specifically for children. Two examples of this are Time for Kids (TFK) and DOGO News (a National Geographic publication).
  • Taking Worries to God in Prayer – This is a technique everyone needs in this world, not just children or even people with chronic anxiety. It’s okay for your children to know that you struggle with worries, too. It’s most important, however, that they see you take your fears to your Father in prayer. We all need constant reminders that we’re not alone in this world, and nothing is out of God’s control.

Your child will have enough time and more to be exposed to the crazy world we live in when they grow up. Helping them learn to monitor their news intake now can help them in the long run. My parents knew that I did not need to hear political analysts talk continually about how the world was ending. Instead, my introduction into the world of current events was a gradual one, and I didn’t suffer in the slightest for it. In fact, I’ve learned that even today as an adult, sometimes I just need to shut off the news.

Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share? Have you been in the position to help a monitor a child’s exposure to current events, or were you the child that needed it? Leave a comment in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!

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  • Angel the Alien on December 18, 2014 at 9:34 pm said:

    I think giving them a newspaper or news magazine geared towards children is a great idea… they can learn about current events on a more kid-friendly level, and even find ways that they CAN make a difference, without having to take on adult-sized worries. I remember when 9/11 happened I was working in a child care center in Colorado. Many of the kids had heard about what happened, and they were worried that their parents were in danger… even though we were in a small town in Colorado where there wasn’t a single skyscraper. Kids are very self-centric, meaning that their worlds are very small, and if they hear about something bad happened, they can only assume that it is happening near where they live, to someone they love, because that is the only world they know!

  • on December 21, 2014 at 6:43 am said:

    I’m sorry it took me so long to comment! I didn’t see this post for some reason. You’re very right! I feel blessed often that most of the kiddos I work with are too young to know about much that goes on in the world. I read TFK (Time for Kids) as a child, and while the articles often addressed tough situations, they were careful to often write them in a positive light. Also, there were only four or five articles, as opposed to a whole paper to search through. I think parents, too, need to look at the resources their kids see as much as possible when they’re young, for they’re’ the ones who know best what their children can handle. Did you ever use any kids’ news resources in your different workplaces?

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