How to Deal with the Anxiety and Fear Terrorism Fosters — Without Giving In
Protect the Children – Especially Younger Kids
Our children, especially kids under 5, are the most vulnerable when violence and terror are so much in the TV news. How can we shield younger kids from such coverage, which they clearly cannot understand and which will only frighten them further? What about kids aged 6 and older, but not yet teens? How do we discuss what’s happening with them and reassure them that we’ll protect them?
Dr. Gadhia-Smith offers these tips:
- If they’re under 5, limit their TV exposure time. If they’re 6 or more, that may be harder to do. They should also be somewhat limited so that they’re not glued to it.
- Keep a dialogue going with them to talk about it. Help them express their feelings and tell you about what they’re thinking and feeling and seeing, what their friends are talking about. Reassure them that they can be aware and talk to someone if they’re scared or if they see something that confirms that.
- Affirm their capacity for awareness and action. Children are very aware, astute, sharp and observant, maybe even more so than adults, in some ways. We need to observe their capacity to recognize what’s going on and to deal with adversity by talking about resiliency and fostering a sense of self-efficacy in our children so that they believe in themselves more than they believe in the fear.
- Helping them to have, not only a sense of the ability to take action, but also some sort of a life of faith is very helpful so that they understand that there is something bigger in charge than all of us. It’s not just the bad guys who are in charge.
She also stresses that self-efficacy can be taught to a child. “Self-efficacy means the belief in one’s own ability to do things and to master challenges and tasks,” said Dr. Gadhia-Smith, who adds that this is one of the most important aspects of parenting that can happen for a child. Children will face adversity and challenges. They need their parents to believe in them so that they can believe in themselves.
“We develop a sense of confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy – we cultivate the sense that we can handle things and do things when we have parents who communicate that they believe in us through words and actions. That’s one of the most important things that we can ever give our children. They’re going to have challenges that we never imagined. They have to believe in their ability to solve problems and be creative and master challenges beyond what they already know.”
Combating Fear’s Cumulative Effect
Many people have a tendency to internalize emotions, because we are taught that it’s OK to have certain feelings and it’s not OK to have others. Dr. Gadhia-Smith says it is very important to process our emotions and feelings during these difficult times so that they do not accumulate and build up within us. That leads to mental health issues such as anxiety problems, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, which are actually rooted in anxiety disorders. “The more that we internalize and let those toxic feelings layer up inside of us, the more we are set up to become emotionally unwell. If there is a cumulative effect that is even greater if we are not sharing and talking about we feel with trusted people in safe places at the appropriate times.”
Of course, this isn’t always possible. “That’s why every one of us needs to have a support group so that we have places where we can process whatever is going on inside of us so that we don’t have to carry it around with us and add to the layer and make ourselves sick.” She says that’s one of the powerful benefits of psychotherapy, good friendships, strong families, and mentors and people that we can really talk to. “We need to really do that. It’s not a time to suck it up.”
Kane, S. (2018). How to Deal with the Anxiety and Fear Terrorism Fosters — Without Giving In. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-deal-with-the-anxiety-and-fear-terrorism-fosters-without-giving-in/