In the News!

I want to talk a bit about the many stressful events we’re hearing about on the news and in social media. I’ve been debating whether or not to write a post about this (it can be such a sensitive subject), but several parents have asked me about it. The reality is that the last few months have had an unprecedented number of news stories that have created increased levels of stress, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum. In mid-February, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 57% of those surveyed said the current political climate is a “very” or “somewhat” significant source of stress in their lives. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/02/stressed-nation.aspx)

So adults are feeling increased stress. How do we make sure not to transmit that stress to our children? How do we (or do we at all) talk with our children about the ever-changing political landscape and current events?

Are you stressed?

The first issue is your stress. Are you overly stressed? Some symptoms include:

  • Being easily agitated, moody
  • Difficulty relaxing (body and/or mind)
  • Lower energy
  • Physical symptoms (including aches, pains, insomnia)
  • Inability to focus
  • Constant worrying or racing thoughts
  • Changes in appetite
  • Procrastinating

What to do

Some suggestions for managing stress:

Step away from the stressor (news and social media). I understand the draw of checking Facebook, Twitter, or whatever platform you use. FOMO (fear of missing out) can have a real effect on our behavior. We worry that we’ll miss the next breaking news story or development because we’re invested in what’s happening in our country. It’s ok to take a break. Make a conscious decision to do so. It will be ok.

Exercise and self-care. Make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Take a run or brisk walk – even if it’s just around the block. Make sure you’re eating well and sleeping enough. Or turn on some music and have a quick dance party – either alone or with your children.

Connect with people and laugh. Reach out. Call a friend, send an email. Share your concerns, but be careful that sharing doesn’t become an escalating gripe session – that could contribute to the stress.

Meditate. Meditation and mindfulness help the mind and body to relax, focus, and tune out some of the stress.

What Do I Say?

The second concern is how much to talk with your children about current events and what to say.

This is a judgement call for each parent to decide, but keep in mind where your child is developmentally. Younger children will have a difficult time managing too much information regarding current events, while older children may be interested and eager to engage about the news. I understand that with a single tragic event on the news it’s somewhat easier to shield your child from that news. With the election and recent world and national developments, the news is somewhat pervasive. It’s ok to talk with your child about events in the news and even your concerns and worries, but it’s important to reassure them that these are adult concerns and they’re going to be ok.

This can be an opportunity for you to talk with your child about your values and the values of your family. You can talk about why or why not the news event conflicts or reinforces your beliefs and values, again at a developmentally appropriate level. And if you feel change is necessary, perhaps talk about how individuals, groups, political representatives, government can bring about that change. Particularly with older children you can discuss with them how conflict is ok, in politics specifically but also life in general. What is important is how we manage the conflict.

If you feel your child is distressed, remind him that our country is a great place where we’re allowed to disagree, and we’re allowed to work for change. Also, see the above tips for parents and use with your child. Step away, do something fun and engaging with your child. Allow you and your child to be completely distracted (see my last post for some ideas!)

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to talk with you about your specific concerns.