At the same time, the media’s relentless analysis can give the impression—particularly to children—that the world is a terrible and frightening place, and we are all just one-step away from harm when we walk out our front door. For that reason, it's important for us to highlight the positive aspects of this story as well. Not in a Pollyanna-way that suggests everything is fine, but in a real way. It’s necessary to talk about the people who have opened their homes to others, sent food to first responders and provided an outpouring of support and kindness to those in need.
A popular post on Facebook this week is a quote from the beloved children’s television host Mr. Rogers:
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.'
My daughter was 3-1/2 when two planes deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. It was a devastating experience that traumatized our country. As a former New Yorker, I was deeply affected by the horrible images I saw of my hometown. I thought long and hard about how to explain this event my preschool-age daughter in a way that her young mind could grasp. I worried that the way I described the events would influence her view of the world. I finally told her, “A few people did a bad thing and hit the buildings with their planes. And now thousands of people are helping to make it better.”
I hoped that explanation would ease her into the realities of life. Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Really bad. But there’s also good in the world. A lot of good.
What to tell your children about these events will differ depending on their age:
- Young children should be shielded from violent or graphic imagery on television and the Internet. They need to know that they are safe, secure and protected by the adults around them.
- Older children might have questions about the event and why it happened. Answer their questions and explain the details without getting overly sensational or frightening.
Darlene Mininni, PhD lectures on media psychology for Touro UniversityWorldwide. Dr. Mininni holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.