How Children Respond to the News

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From: September/October 1992 Children’s Ministry Magazine
Keywords: News Insights

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AGE
2 to 4 years

HOW CHILDREN REACT TO THE NEWS
When preschoolers overhear stories or see TV news reports that are
frightening, they think whatever has happened to someone else will
happen to them, too. They also can’t discriminate between regular
TV shows and the news. If children’s parents or you show concern or
anxiety, children may also become fearful. Children who don’t
express their fears may suffer nightmares, headaches and
stomachaches.

HOW TO RESPOND
Caution children’s parents not to watch television news with
graphic violence or fear-producing scenes during meals or in the
early evening. Express any anxiety and fears away from children.
Reassure children by holding and hugging them. Tell them that
whatever took place is unlikely to happen to them.

AGE
5 and 6 years

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HOW CHILDREN REACT TO THE NEWS
Children want to know how outside events affect them and their
families. For example, if a child sees news about people losing
their jobs, that child may fear Dad will lose his job and the
family will have to move out on the street. TV violence or people
getting hurt on television frightens and upsets children. What’s
real or fantasy is blurry.

HOW TO RESPOND
Children may want to know if something bad is going to happen to
them or someone they know. Don’t belittle their fears. Allow
children to express their concerns before you rush to give
assurance. Clarify the risks. For example, say, “Yes, some people
are losing their jobs, but not your mom or dad. Even if they do,
God will take care of you.”

AGE
7 to 10 years

HOW CHILDREN RESPOND TO THE NEWS
At this age, children are interested in news about the world
around them. They may question news that relates to crime in their
cities, decisions about their schools and even government
elections. Children may ask questions “just to know.” News
unrelated to children’s lives may at first bring reactions from
them. But they’ll lose interest as soon as they realize the news
doesn’t impact their daily lives.

HOW TO RESPOND
Explain the news simply. If they’re upset about an event that
occurred across the world, point out on a globe where they live and
where the event occurred. If the event is close to home, reassure
them that their parents will protect them. Discuss possible
practical actions they could take to protect themselves. Answer
their questions starting at a basic, simple level. If children want
to know more, they’ll ask more questions.

AGE
11 and 12 years

HOW CHILDREN RESPOND TO THE NEWS
Older children better understand events that don’t relate to them.
They also begin to understand long-term implications of events,
such as environmental issues. But they still view these issues in a
simplistic, right-or-wrong way and don’t understand the
complexities of these issues.

HOW TO RESPOND
Be honest. Don’t hide the truth. You lose your credibility when
children find out you’re not truthful. If an environmental issue
comes up, for example, present all of the relevant facts pertinent
to the issue. Then calmly discuss the event and its implications
for the children directly and indirectly. Remind children of God’s
control and sovereignty in the world. This may, however, lead to an
interesting discussion of why God allows evil, pain and bad things
to happen to people. Be prepared.

Paul White, Ph.D. is a child and family therapist in
Kansas.

Copyright© Group Publishing, Inc. / Children’s Ministry
Magazine

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