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Parenting a Fearful, Anxious Child

anxious child with kitten

Terrorism, acts of brutality and armed conflicts are simply a sad reality. Violence, whether targeted or random, down the street or across the globe, is emotionally jarring to many.

And violence can sometimes seem like it's happening everywhere to anyone.

Media saturation, coupled with the proliferation and sophistication of mobile devices, makes the sounds and images of violence instantly accessible and practically inescapable. For many children, exposure to attention-grabbing headlines, disturbing videos and uncensored pictures can make them question their own safety or give them physical and psychological discomfort.

How can you help your children cope with their anxieties and questions?

Always consider the age and maturity level of your children when you have to explain tragic events. Young children (toddlers to 9-year-olds) should be shielded from as much media coverage as possible. For older children, that's not practical. However, they possess greater cognitive skills which can help them better comprehend what happened.​

If your children express fear or anxiety, here are a few "rules of thumb" to help you deal with their hard questions and troubled feelings:

  • Maintain normalcy in your daily life and routines.
    Don't undermine your children's sense of security by obsessing over media coverage or altering how you live because of some unknown fear or unlikely event.
  • Reassure your children.
    Tell your children that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe, and it's not just you who is looking out for them. Let your children know that there are many people in their lives, from grandparents to teachers to police officers, who are doing everything they can to keep their school and community safe.
  • Be honest.
    Even if the chances of something happening in your community are remote, don't stretch the truth by saying, "Nothing is going to happen here." Acknowledge the possibility, but remind your children that you and many others are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe.

For additional advice, help and resources on parenting through a crisis situation, contact the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. Trained counselors are available 24/7.