Un-teachable Moments: those times when you wish your kid didn’t just see or hear that?
With so much going on right now, everyone is affected.
How to Protect Kids from the Bad News:
There is so much disaster, confusion and tragedy in the world right now.
Exposure to a constant barrage of information about disasters, gun violence, and unstable political leaders flowing into our homes creates unintended consequences in terms of creating anxiety, uncertainty and stress.
It’s all happening now, in real time, on our phones, on Alexa, in our cars – virtually anywhere. And it can be frightening for children of all ages.
Brain imprinting on developing brains:
What kind of imprint does all of this leave on children?
All young children need to feel safe and secure, in order to grow their sense of well-being and their ability to courageously navigate their world. They do not yet have sufficient defenses to protect their innocent brains and imagination against a barrage of images and events. These horrific images create a primary imprint that becomes a future frame of reference for a young child.
“I saw it and now I can’t un-see it,”
said a girl about a video she had inadvertently seen where somebody was shot and killed.
Rresearch shows that chronic stress and fear is associated with significant brain changes, and possibly shows that toxic experiences actually re-form the architecture of developing brains.
How do we protect the kids? It’s no longer 1960 when grown ups waited until the kids are asleep for the grown ups to “catch up” on the news.
It’s all around us.
How to Protect and Convey Information to Young Kids:
1. First, you can’t “un-teach” horrific images. Images become embedded in the young mind, with few defenses to protect it. Protect children from images that they aren’t equipped to handle.
Be vigilant to what your kids are viewing. This means that the TV, IPad, or YouTube kids is no longer a reliable babysitter.
2. Limit discussing current events until YOU are emotionally regulated enough to share the information with your child at their level.
Use my “SALT” method:
S: SENSITIVE: be sensitive to the environment you want to create around your child. If you don’t want kids accidentally picking up tidbits of scary news, you can’t leave your TV on indiscriminately- or even when kids are in earshot.
A: ATTUNED: become attuned to your child’s emotional state and your own emotional state when talking about issues. Make sure you are sufficiently self regulated and reassuring in describing events that you know they will hear about in school. You may want to get it to them first.
L: LOOK AND LISTEN: look at your child’s face carefully for reactions that they may not be able to express. Listen to their questions and reactions – answer their questions at their level. They don’t need TMI – too much info, keep it simple.
T:TRANSLATE: translate what you want to share in bite-size, kid-appropriate sound bites. News can be gruesome and scary. They don’t need to know everything!
REASSURE: reassure your child that they are safe and you will always take care of them.
PROTECT: above all, Protect your child from images that they shouldn’t be seeing. Save your frustration and rants over with your friends instead of using your kid as an inadvertent sounding board.
Hopefully, in the future, there will be less moments that you wish you could “unteach” – but until then, we’ve got a job to do!
With wishes for a calmer world in this new school year!