news-storiesScary events happen around the world on a regular basis. And with today’s 24/7 news channels and fast Internet access, it’s easy to feel surrounded by tragedies—and it’s virtually impossible to shield your preschooler from hearing at least some of the reporting. To add to the challenge, preschoolers can mix up fact with fantasy or struggle to put events into perspective, which can cause even a relatively mild news story to frighten your child.

News stories are broadcast about countries that are geographically far, but your child won’t yet understand that. PBS provides an example, saying that telling your preschooler that a war is happening “far away” may not reassure him or her. After all, the article points out, your child may perceive “far away” as the “mailbox on the corner, the post office a few blocks away, or Grandma's house in the next town!” This can lead to your child having nightmares or otherwise suffering from anxiety. He or she may become clingy, not wanting to separate from you.

What should you do?

Tips from PBS

Even though you can’t completely protect your preschooler from ever hearing scary news, it makes sense to shield him or her from violent news stories, by not watching these programs when your child is around. Don’t expose your child to 24/7 news where the same frightening event is shown over and over again. He or she may think it is repeatedly happening, not understanding the concept of replay yet.

Don’t bring up violent events unless you believe that your preschooler has already heard about them and then share age-appropriate information, listening carefully to what your child asks or says. Don’t focus just on bad news; also discuss other more routine topics.

Tips from Baby Center

Your preschooler often won’t tell you outright that news is frightening, this article points out. So as a parent, you’ll need to watch for nonverbal cues. These could include your child acting younger than his or her age, whining, tantrum throwing, lapses in toilet training, complaining of not feeling well and sleeplessness.

Your child can pick up on your insecurity, which means that you need to manage your own reactions to upsetting news. Sticking to routines can help, and so can validating feelings. Instead of saying, “I don’t want you to be scared,” listen and then assure your child that your family is doing all possible to keep everyone safe. If, for example, the scary story involves a house fire, practice your family’s home evacuation plan with your child and let him or her know where you would meet up if there ever was a house fire.

Tips from WebMD

Programming outside of the news can also be scary, even though events portrayed are not really happening. Remember that your preschooler may not yet know the difference, so these shows can also cause anxiety. To address this, WebMD offers the following television-watching tips:

  • Watch TV with your kids.
  • Don't let your child have a TV in his bedroom.
  • Consider the v-chip or other tools that allow parents to block inappropriate programming.
  • Use the ratings system, which offers information about the violent content of a TV program.
  • Make sure other parents and caregivers with whom your child spends time are on the same page.

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