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Your Child

Kid’s Head Injury Linked to Long Term Attention Problems

1:45

Even mild brain injuries may cause children to have momentary gaps in attention long after an accident occurs, according to a new study.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when brain scans showed no obvious damage, the researchers said.

The study’s results are being released as schools gear up for a new academic year combined with some sports programs that can put children at risk for head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, and assault or sports injury.

Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the study was conducted.  Researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention -- the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

As is typical with most studies, the results do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but an association.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

More information on brain injury in children can be found at the Brain Injury Association of America’s website, http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/head-injury-may-trigger-attention-issues-in-kids-701821.html

Your Child

Are Computers and Phones Making Kids Nearsighted?

1:45

Kids who spend a lot of time indoors on computers, smart phones and other electronic devices may be raising their chances for nearsightedness, a panel of ophthalmology experts suggests.

In the last 50 years, Americans with nearsightedness (also known as myopia), has nearly doubled and the ophthalmologists suspect it is due to “near work”, focusing on something that is close to your eyes. They also suggest that too many kids are not spending enough time outdoors in natural light – focusing on farther away objects.

"Kids are spending much more time doing indoor activities with their cellphones, iPads, computers, and so on," said Dr. Rohit Varma, director of the University of Southern California Eye Institute in Los Angeles.

"Especially when children are young, when they play these games indoors where they're seeing things very close to them and doing it in low-light level -- that combination of doing near activities in low light is what contributes to these children becoming very nearsighted," Varma said.

A panel of 10 ophthalmology experts discussed the global increase of childhood myopia at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's (AAO) recent annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Being nearsighted is pretty common, especially among children who have one or both nearsighted parents. The condition is also much more prevalent in industrialized and urban areas than in rural areas said, Dr. K. David Epley, a spokesman for the AAO.

Children of East Asian descent are genetically predisposed to nearsightedness, but children's habits in those regions may be increasing the rates of myopia even more. The current rate of myopia in young people in China is 90 percent compared to about 10 to 20 percent 60 years ago, the experts said. That compares to a rate of 42 percent for Americans between the ages of 12 and 54, according to previous research.

The ophthalmologists noted the difference in Chinese and American work habits. Children in China spend up to 12 hours a day doing near work, compared to their U.S. peers, who spend about nine hours a day on near work, the eye experts said.

Myopia is not reversible or even stoppable, but its progression can be slowed down.

"We want to encourage our kids to read, but it's not a great thing to read for hours straight without looking up from the page," Epley said. "Encourage kids to take breaks. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break. Get your eyes off the page with something that's farther away."

Many of us grew up hearing “reading in low light can make you blind.” While that’s not true, dim lighting causes the eyes to work harder and may lead to more eyestrain. Experts recommend that if your child is reading, always make sure he or she has a bright light.

There's no specific number of hours shown to be too much time spent on near work, Varma said. But having kids spend more time playing outdoors is an important way to help prevent myopia, he noted, adding that playing outside may benefit every aspect of a child's growth, including their eyes.

"When you're outdoors there's more stuff that's far away, and when you're indoors the furthest thing away is still probably about 20 feet away," Hunter pointed out.

For children that are reading a book or on a computer or smart phone, the best thing he or she can do to lesson eyestrain and slow down myopia is to blink often and take breaks. Look up and away to give your eyes a chance to refocus on something farther away. Blink to help prevent your eyes from drying out.

Another benefit to kids spending more time outdoors is the exposure to natural light. If kids do need to stay indoors, having large, glass windows in the home is helpful so kids can still get the benefit of seeing objects at a distance, and get exposure to bright light, Varma said.

Source: Julianne Cuba, http://consumer.healthday.com/bone-and-joint-information-4/computer-related-health-news-143/more-computer-time-might-be-upping-nearsightnedness-in-u-s-kids-705789.html

 

Your Child

Physical Activity Improves Kids Brain Power!

1:30

Kids who enjoy lots of physical activity are doing more than just having fun; they’re improving their brain structure, brain function and academic prowess according to new consensus statement published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

A group of 24 researchers from the United States, Canada and Europe examined the latest scientific and medical research on the benefits of exercise in kids, ages 6 to 18 years old.

Experts from a variety of disciplines evaluated the values of all kinds of exercise, including recess, physical education classes, youth sports leagues and old-fashioned outdoor play.

The researchers noted that:

•       Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness are good for children's and young people's brain development and function as well as their intellect

•       A session of physical activity before, during, and after school boosts academic prowess

•       A single session of moderately energetic physical activity has immediate positive effects on brain function, intellect, and academic performance

•       Mastery of basic movement boosts brain power and academic performance

•       Time taken away from lessons in favor of physical activity does not come at the cost of getting good grades

In terms of the physiological benefits of exercise, the Statement says that cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness "are strong predictors" of the risk of developing heart disease and type2 diabetes in later life, and that vigorous exercise in childhood helps to keep these risk factors in check.

Even low intensity exercise will help improve kids’ heart health and their metabolism.

But the positive effects of exercise are not restricted to physical health, says the Statement. Regular physical activity can help develop important life skills, and boost self-esteem, motivation, confidence and wellbeing. And it may play a role in strengthening /fostering relationships with peers, parents, and coaches.

Just as importantly, activities that take account of culture and context can promote social inclusion for those from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientation, skill levels and physical capacity.

Incorporating physical activity into every aspect of school life and providing protected public spaces, such as bike lanes, parks and playgrounds "are both effective strategies for providing equitable access to, and enhancing physical activity for, children and youth," says the Statement.

For many kids right now, summer vacation is in full gear. With longer daylight hours and relaxed schedules, opportunities for more adventurous types of exercise are numerous. Swimming, hiking, biking, camping, water skiing, sports – you name it – all add to the overall mental and physical health of our children. Now’s a good time to start and stay active!

Story source: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-06-physical-boosts-kids-brain-power.html

Your Child

ADHD: Behavioral Therapy First Before Drugs

1:30

Researchers have been studying the possible benefits of using behavioral therapy as a first choice in treatment for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

One paper found that children’s ADHD problems improve quicker when behavioral therapy is started initially instead of medications, the New York Times reported. . Another paper noted that this treatment progression is less expensive over time.

If the effectiveness of the behavior therapy-first approach is confirmed in larger studies, experts say it could change standard medical practice for children with ADHD, which currently favors medications as first-line treatments.

Medications were most effective when used as supplemental, second-line treatment for children with ADHD who required the drugs. In many cases, the drugs were effective at doses lower than normally prescribed, according to the findings in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychology.

"We showed that the sequence in which you give treatments makes a big difference in outcomes," study co-leader William Pelham Florida International University, told The Times.

"The children who started with behavioral modification were doing significantly better than those who began with medication by the end, no matter what treatment combination they ended up with," he said.

Some experts noted that the research focused on behaviors and not some of the other complications associated with ADHD such as attention and learning problems.

"I think this is a very important study, and the take-home is that low-cost behavioral treatment is very effective, but the irony is that that option is seldom available to parents," Mark Stein, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Washington, told The Times.

One resource for more information on finding a specialist in behavioral and cognitive therapies is, http://www.abct.org/Home. Click on the “Find a CBT Therapist” link.

Another online resource is, www.additudemag.com, which offers information on the program, COPE (Community Parent Education) and how to locate one in your community.

Story Source: WebMD News from HealthDay, http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/news/20160218/behavioral-therapy-adhd

Your Child

Antibiotics Often Prescribed When Not Needed

2.00 to read

By now, most parents understand that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections, only for illnesses caused by bacteria.

However, that hasn’t deterred many physicians from over-prescribing antibiotics for children with ear and throat infections.

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children's viral illnesses, researchers said, but also supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance.

"I think it's well-known that we prescribers overprescribe antibiotics, and our intent was to put a number on how often we're doing that," said study author Dr. Matthew Kronman, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Seattle Children's Hospital.

"But as we found out, there's really been no change in this [situation] over the last decade," added Kronman. "And we don't have easily available tools in the real-world setting to discriminate between infections caused by bacteria or viruses."

 Doctors have limited resources when it comes to differentiating between bacterial or viral infections. Physicians can use the rapid step test to determine if the streptococcus bacteria is the cause of a child’s sore throat, but that is about it for immediate diagnostic tools.

Most colds are virus related and one of the first symptoms will be a sore or scratchy throat. It will typically go away after the first day or so and other cold symptoms will continue. Strep throat is often more severe and persistent.

A virus often causes ear infection as well. Many doctors treat ear infections as though they are bacterial to be on the safe side and avoid serious middle ear infections.

To determine antibiotic prescribing rates, Kronman and his colleagues analyzed a group of English-language studies published between 2000 and 2011 and data on children 18 and younger who were examined in outpatient clinics.

Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria.

But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors' visits for these infections, the study found.

Kronan hopes that the study’s results will encourage the development of more diagnostic tools and will spur doctors to think more critically about prescribing antibiotics unless clearly needed.

Previous research has shown that parents often pressure their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic to treat their child’s ear or sore throat symptoms. However, when parents are given other suggestions on how to alleviate the symptoms they have been much more receptive than when their doctor just flat out says he won’t prescribe antibiotics.

Many physicians and researchers are concerned that the amount of antibiotics being prescribed these days is setting us all up for future problems when dealing with bacterial infections. Bacteria are adaptable and mutate over time becoming less responsive to antibiotics. When possible, it’s much healthier in the long run to treat your child’s symptoms with simpler therapies. Ask your physican ways you can make your little one more comfortable until the symptoms pass. 

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Maureen Salamon, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/antibiotics-news-30/antibiotics-prescribed-twice-as-often-as-needed-in-children-study-says-691686.html

Your Child

July 4th Food and Fireworks Safety Tips

2:00

This July 4th may be even more special than usual for a lot of families. Besides the excitement and patriotic fervor of celebrating our country’s official Independence Day, it may finally stop raining long enough for people to enjoy being outside.

However the day unfolds, you can bet there will be plenty of families and friends celebrating with good food!

Grilling is particularly popular on the Fourth as well as picnics. To make sure that the food you prepare is safe and stays safe for consumption, the USDA and the FDA offers these food preparation tips:

•       Clean: Make sure you clean all surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water.

•       Separate: When grilling, use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods (like raw vegetables) to avoid cross-contamination.

•       Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer. 

•       Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.

•       Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler - including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.

•       Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer. That’s the only way to know it’s a safe temperature.

•       Remember: Ground beef and egg dishes should be cooked to 160°F. Steaks, roasts, pork and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F, and Chicken breast and whole poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Shrimp, lobster, and crabs  cook until pearly and opaque. Clams, oysters, and mussels cook until the shells are open

•       Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly if not consuming after cooking. You shouldn’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F), so if you’re away from home, make sure you bring a cooler to store those leftovers.

Warm weather events present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly. Safe food handling and cooking when eating outdoors is critical for your family’s health.

Most cities have banned fireworks within the city limits except for controlled displays. However, rural and unincorporated areas still allow the sale and use of fireworks by citizens.

Fireworks are now much more sophisticated and larger than mere firecrackers and sparklers; injuries associated with fireworks can be devestating. 

In 2013, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2014 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 38% were to the head. The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 0-4, followed by children 10-14.

On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends these fireworks handling safety tips:

•       Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

•       Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

•       Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.

•       Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

•       Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

•       Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

•       Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

•       Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

•       Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

•       After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

•       Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

The Fourth of July is definitely one of the most treasured holidays for Americans, make sure your family has a safe one!

Sources: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Fireworks/

 http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/holidays/fireworks

 

 

Your Child

A Little Sugar and Higher Fat In School Lunches?

2:00

Should sugar and fat be included in your child’s school lunch meal? In an effort to curb obesity in children, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has frequently urged parents and schools to restrict these 2 ingredients and find healthier substitutes.

In a new policy statement, the AAP is asking parents and schools to take a broader approach to kid’s nutrition. What the AAP would like to see instead of focusing on specific foods is the emphasis placed on the child’s overall diet. 

"A good diet is built on highly nutritious foods from each of the main food groups," said Robert Murray, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, "Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools," published in the latest journal of Pediatrics. "No ingredient should be banned. A small amount of sugar or fat is ok if it means a child is more likely to eat foods that are highly nutritious."

In the last 20 years, improvements have gradually been implemented in school lunch programs with more lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains replacing high fat meats and nutritionally deprived starches and sweets.

In that effort, national standards now limit the type of foods and drinks that are sold in schools.  As of 2014, 92 percent of school districts reported meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal standards released in 2012.

While some parents and school boards have objected to the required changes, most schools have moved forward using creative culinary skills and producing healthier meals that taste good and in some cases, use locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Parents can always choose to pack a lunch at home for their child to take to school and many do. They know what foods their children are more likely to eat and they make an effort to provide a nutritional alternative to the school lunch. Sometimes however, parents pack high-calorie meals that are way over the daily sodium and fat recommendations for a child.   

The AAP believes there is an opportunity to help all parents or guardians make better choices for their child’s home-made lunches by offering a five-step approach in selecting food for packed lunches and social events:

•       Select a mix of foods from the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein sources, including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs).

•       Offer a variety of food experiences.

•       Avoid highly processed foods.

•       Use small amounts of sugar, salt, fats and oils with highly nutritious foods to enhance enjoyment and consumption.

•       Offer appropriate portions.

"Children, like adults, often want their own preferred flavors and textures during meals and snacks," Dr. Murray said. "It's no secret that brown sugar on oatmeal, or salad dressing with cut vegetables, can make these healthy foods more palatable to children, and increase their consumption. This is not a license to give kids anything they want; we just need to use sugar, fat and sodium strategically."

The Internet is full of websites that offer great recipes and suggestions for kid's healthy lunches. You can review the sites, check out the ingredients and decide which ones fit your lifestyle and time schedule.

A little added sugar or fat is not a problem as long as the child is getting a well-balanced meal. The key (as with everything) is moderation.

Source: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Recommends-Whole-Diet-Approach-to-Children's-Nutrition.aspx

Your Child

Can Your Child Hear You?

2:00

You may think your child isn’t listening to you, but in fact, he or she may not hear you.

Twelve percent of U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss – that’s about 5.2 million children – according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 U.S. children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

Many hearing experts have suspected that long-term hearing loss begins in childhood and now studies have shown how common hearing impairment is among kids.

"Historically, people have been looking only at adult hearing loss and assuming that this is not a problem among children," said Amanda Niskar, a nurse at the CDC and lead author of a study released last summer. "What we have found here for the first time is that this is not true. [Hearing loss] is a progression, and it starts when you're very young."

Some hearing experts say the problem of hearing loss in kids will likely worsen, considering rising levels of environmental noise.

One of the most common contributors to kid’s hearing loss is loud music. Regular exposure to loud noises can damage nerve cells in the ear called hair cells. As the name suggests, these cells have tiny hairs that detect sound vibrations and turn them into signals sent to the brain. But while soft noises only cause the hairs to vibrate, loud noises can break them.

Brief instances of exposure to loud noise may only temporarily damage these hairs. Niskar said two hours of loud music on headphones or seven minutes next to the speakers at a rock concert result in damage that may last for only a few days. However, chronic exposures can damage the hair cells — and hearing — permanently.

Loud toys can also cause hearing impairment. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLH) discusses toy noise on their website www.asha.org.

“Some toys are so loud that they can cause hearing damage in children. Some toy sirens and squeaky rubber toys can emit sounds of 90 dB, as loud as a lawn mower. Workers would have to wear ear protection for similarly noisy sounds on the job.

The danger with noisy toys is greater than the 90-dB level implies. When held directly to the ear, as children often do, a noisy toy actually exposes the ear to as much as 120 dB of sound, the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Noise at this level is painful and can result in permanent hearing loss.

Toys that pose a noise danger include cap guns, talking dolls, vehicles with horns and sirens, walkie-talkies, musical instruments, and toys with cranks. Parents who have normal hearing need to inspect toys for noise danger.

Before purchasing a new toy, listen to it. If the toy sounds loud, don’t buy it.”

Good advice to help protect your child’s hearing.

What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in kids? Each child is different, but there are some symptoms such as:

Signs in Babies

•       Does not startle at loud noises.

•       Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age.

•       Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age.

•       Turns head when he or she sees you but not if you only call out his or her name. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.

•       Seems to hear some sounds but not others.

Signs in Children

•       Speech is delayed.

•       Speech is not clear.

•       Does not follow directions. This sometimes is mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.

•       Often says, “Huh?”

•       Turns the TV volume up too high.

If you suspect your baby may have a hearing problem, make sure that he or she has a hearing screening. It’s easy and not painful. Older children should have their hearing tested before entering school any time there is a concern about the child’s hearing. Children who do not pass the hearing screening need to get a full hearing test as soon as possible.

With Christmas and holiday shopping in full swing, make sure to test the toys you buy for your child if they produce a noise and check to see that they are not too loud for your little one to be around.

Hearing loss can affect a child’s performance in school and personal relationships. If you have any suspicions that your child is having difficulty hearing the sooner he or she is checked, the better. There are many excellent therapies for hearing loss now as opposed to even a decade ago.

Sources: Dan Childs, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117355

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/facts.html

http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noisy-Toys/

Your Child

Talking to Your Child About Tragic News Events

2:00

Another tragedy has taken place, this time a terrorist attack in Paris, France.  Children, adolescents and adults have lost their lives or been seriously injured while out for an evening of fun, errands or romance.  Media outlets have been covering the events, sometimes showing graphic video or photos from the bloody scenes.

When children view these images or hear the stories, they can become scared and worried that the same thing will happen to them. 

Whenever catastrophic local, national or global events take place, it’s easy to assume that your child doesn’t really know what is going on or understand the gravity. But, in this age of instant and abundant information, they most likely do. Children are very sensitive to their parents and friends’ feelings. They are more tuned in than you might think.

Children sense when their parents are really worried, whether they're watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a crisis, it's especially disconcerting for them to realize that their parents are scared, angry or shocked.

When bad things happen, children want to know what is going on.  It doesn’t have to be an international event. Local tragedies such as a flood, tornado, shooting, kidnapping, suicide, house fire or car wreck can be more frightening to children than events taking place across the world or in another state.

So, how do you talk with your child about such unhappy and threatening things? I’ve turned to Mr. Rogers to share with you his calming and thoughtful insights. The first time he addressed this topic was after Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Parents and educators turned to him for guidance then and his advice still holds true today.

In times of crisis, children want to know, "Who will take care of me?" They're dependent on adults for their survival and security. They're naturally self-centered. Their world is small and their life experience is limited. They need to hear very clearly that their parents are doing all they can to take care of them and to keep them safe. They also need to know that people in the government, in their community and in the world, and other people they don't even know, are working hard to keep them safe, too.

One of the ways young children express feelings is through play. However, sometimes events that happen are violent, so parents need to be nearby to redirect play if it takes a turn in that direction. More nurturing play can help children process the different activities and needs that happen around certain types of events. Play involving being a doctor or nurse in a hospital setting or creating a pretend meal for emergency workers or families can help children understand that there are good people and helpful actions that also take place when something bad happens.

When children are scared and anxious, they might become more dependent, clingy, and afraid to go to bed at night. Whining, aggressive behavior, or toilet accidents may be their way of asking for more comfort from the important adults in their lives. Little by little, as we adults around them become more confident, hopeful and secure, our children can experience a more calming sense of security.

When shocking event happens, it’s easy to get drawn into watching the news for hours and hours. Think back to 9-11 when there was non-stop coverage for days with repeated video of the towers being hit and falling. It created post-traumatic stress disorder, nation-wide. As hard as it is for adults to assimilate, it’s even harder for children. Once you have the information, turn the TV off or find something else for your kids to watch. Monitor their online activity as well to see if they are seeing too much graphic information or too many stories of “What if this happened here?”

Exposing ourselves to so many tragedies can make us feel hopeless, insecure, and even depressed, feelings that even young children can sense. We help our children-and ourselves-if we're able to limit our own television viewing. Our children need us to spend time with them-away from the frightening images on the screen.

Limiting our child’s media exposure doesn’t mean we don’t talk about what has happened with them.

Even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to give our children all the reasons for such things as war, terrorists, abuse, murders, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. If very young children ask questions, our best answer may be to ask them, "What do you think happened?" If the answer is, "I don't know," then the simplest reply might be something like, "I'm sad about the news, and I'm worried. But I love you, and I'll take care of you."

If we don't let children know it's okay to feel sad and scared, they may try to hide those feelings or think something is wrong with them whenever they do feel that way. They certainly don't need details of what's making us sad or scared, but if we can help them accept their own feelings as natural and normal, their feelings will be much more manageable for them.

Your child’s age and emotional IQ should be your guide on how much detail you go into when discussing tragic events. Very young children do not need a lot of detail. Children 7 and under are most concerned with safety. They need to know that you and they are secure. That’s why it important to keep the TV at a minimum for kids in this age group. They can identify strongly to pictures of other young children in peril or crying because they’ve lost someone dear to them. At this age, kids are most concerned with separation from you.  Assure them that you are watching out for them and will protect them.

Children between the ages of 8 and 12 will often notice the morality of events.  You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take you at your word. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts. This age group will most likely be online more. While it’s still important to keep news viewing under control, online viewing and searching should be monitored as well. It’s a good age to discuss lots of views and opinions about events. Read stories together and then ask them what they think.

Teens will probably get their news independently of you. Talking to them can offer great insights into their developing senses of justice and morality. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix, but don’t dismiss their opinions or insights just because they may not be the same as yours. They will shut down communication quickly if they feel their ideas are not being valued.  Discuss the ways that different media covers events. Again, ask them what they think.

Having to discuss tragic or scary events with our children isn’t new. Generations of parents have had to address various topics from volcano eruptions that wiped out an entire city to the Holocaust to the cold war. But how we get our information has changed dramatically. Media in one form or another is prolific with gory images and misinformation available at the touch of finger. So parents have to react quicker and with more assurance and details than they would probably like. But that’s what we do. We protect our children in all ways, as best we can, with loving and clear information.

Sources:  http://pbskids.org/rogers//parentsteachers/special/scarynews-thoughts.html

Carolyn Knorr, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/explaining-the-news-to-our-kids

 

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