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Age-Level Insights - News

Paul White, Ph.D.

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

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

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.

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