The children I'm seeing in my clinic, day after day, have worries and anxieties I couldn't have dreamed of as a kid. Sure, my friends and I had our share of insular but significant troubles, including some really awful issues in the home sometimes but we certainly weren't hiding under our covers terrified of serial murderers, terrorist, arsonists, sinkholes, wars, road ragers, home invaders and a never ending paranoia about child abduction and sexual abuse. Come on, people!
Today I'm turning my guns on EXPOSURE TO NEWS REPORTING. While we're all lecturing our children on the evils of social media, inappropriate movies, tacky Googling and their endless contact with computer games (which are not insignificant issues) we are exposing them time and time again to hideous, real-life news reporting.
In the car to and from school, at home, during ad breaks, regular pop-ups and online links, social media posts, newspaper headlines and even careless phone and playground conversations - it's all soaking in to our children while we're not even looking.
The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry reported (in 2013) the frightening fact that "statistics report a decrease in the incidence of crime, yet, the reporting of crime in the news has increased 240%. Local news shows often lead with or break into programming to announce crime reports and devote as much as 30% of the broadcast time to detailed crime reporting."
Children (particularly under the age of 8) have little or no ability to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to violence and aggression so what the hell happens when the violence and horror happens in real life AND THEY KNOW IT. Worse - what are they supposed to think when the adults around them are worried and anxious? If the leader / role model isn't coping, then neither will you! That's their subconscious conclusion.
For my own two cents worth: boys between the ages of 8-12 years of age are especially showing signs of anxiety that worries me on a daily basis. To make it worse, they often hide it or act out with aggressive, opposition behaviour and you could misread the signs altogether.
If your kids just aren't themselves and are getting nervous, withdrawn or even getting uncharacteristically angry, get them checked out by a mental health professional. It's not about excuse making, it's about early intervention and proper explanations for what's going on.
Watch what you say around them, even when you assume they aren't listening or can't hear you.
Please, please, please put CD's on in the car AND GET RID OF THE RADIO. You may not notice all the horrifying news reports but they will.
As always, contact me with any questions or concerns about his or other parenting and mental health issues.