Childhood stress is more common in today’s digital age, thanks to children’s exposure to news and information from around the world.
While this access to knowledge has its advantages, it also poses challenges, especially when it comes to discussing sensitive topics such as violence, conflict and fear with young children.
In another edition of La Hora del Café de El Mundo Boston, and given the current conjuncture of global violence events, they were joined as a guest speaker by Dr. Linda Herrera Santos.
Dr. Linda serves as Director of the MGH Hispanic Psychiatry Clinic, providing valuable information on how parents can approach these conversations in a reassuring and age-appropriate manner.
Childhood Stress: Addressing Children’s Concerns Amid Global Conflict
How Do You Address the Stress that Children May Be Experiencing Due to Violence and Conflict in the News?
It is a topic that can be difficult for adults to talk about with young children, especially those in the age range of 3 to 7 years.
Dr. Herrera Santos: Indeed, it is a very difficult topic, but it is essential that we approach it in a way that is sensitive to the age and emotional development of the child.
How Do You Recommend Parents Approach this Conversation with Their Young Children?
Dr. Herrera Santos: The first step is to create a safe and nurturing space where you can sit down with your child and engage in open conversation.
Find a quiet moment when you have time to answer any questions and address concerns.
The goal is to understand what your child already knows about the situation and, more importantly, what he or she doesn’t understand.
Should Parents Be Completely Honest with Their Children, and How Can They Make Sure They Don’t Share Too Much Information for Their Child’s Age?
Dr. Herrera Santos: Honesty is crucial, but the level of detail you provide should be age-appropriate.
We should avoid exposing children to graphic or violent details that they may not be emotionally prepared to handle.
For younger children, keep the explanation simple and focus on reassuring them.
Children May Have Many Questions, How Can Parents Encourage Them to Ask and Answer These Questions?
Dr. Herrera Santos: It is essential to encourage your child to ask questions and be there to provide honest answers.
Let them know that they are safe and that you, as parents, are there to protect them.
Information is a tool for understanding and coping with their emotions.
What Advice Do You Have Regarding Media Consumption in this Type of Situation?
Dr. Herrera Santos: It is essential to limit a child’s exposure to media and social networks, as these platforms can be overwhelming.
Monitor what your child watches and make sure he or she has access to age-appropriate news sources.
Reducing exposure can help minimize anxiety and stress.
Childhood Stress: Is There Help Available in Spanish for People who May Need it?
Dr. Herrera Santos: Yes, there are helplines and resources available in Spanish to provide support. These services are often free and do not require insurance, which makes them accessible to many families.
What Message Would You Like to Leave for Parents and Caregivers who May Be Dealing with Childhood Stress?
Dr. Herrera Santos: My message to parents is that they are not alone.
There is help available to prevent childhood stress for both parents and children.
Don’t hesitate to contact your primary care physician, pediatrician or community organizations.
Seek support when needed and always remember that professionals are here to help.
Guiding Children Through Difficult Conversations: Talking to Children About Today’s Violence
In today’s interconnected world, children are increasingly exposed to global events and news from a very young age.
With the proliferation of media and easy access to information, it is not uncommon for children to encounter stories of violence and conflict, which can be both disturbing and difficult to understand.
Here are some recommendations for having these sensitive conversations:
1. Be Informed:
Before discussing difficult topics, make sure you have gathered accurate information from reliable sources to avoid spreading misconceptions or unfounded fears.
2. Create a Safe Space:
Choose a quiet, comfortable environment where your child feels safe and comfortable, encouraging open conversation and minimizing distractions.
3. Understand Their Perspective:
Begin the conversation by asking your child what he or she already knows or has heard about the situation.
This helps you gauge their level of awareness and correct any misinformation.
4. Age-appropriate Information:
Tailor your explanations to your child’s age and maturity level.
Younger children need simpler, more general information, while older children may need more detailed explanations.
5. Avoid Graphic Details:
Protect children from graphic or violent descriptions that may be distressing.
Keep your conversation focused on the bigger picture and the emotional well-being of those affected.
Emphasize that your child is safe and secure.
Make sure they understand that the violence they hear about does not directly threaten them.
7. Control Media Exposure:
Limit your child’s exposure to the media, especially graphic images and sensational news.
8. Highlight Stories:
Of people, organizations or nations that are working to improve the situation.
This gives children a more positive and hopeful outlook.
9. Share Coping Strategies:
Teach your child positive ways to cope with their emotions, such as talking about their feelings, drawing, writing, or physical activities.
10. Seek Professional Help for Childhood Stress:
If you notice that your child is having difficulty processing information and his or her emotional well-being is at risk, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional or counselor.
Resources Available to Support the Mental Health and Well-being of Children in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program (MCPAP for Kids):
State-funded program that provides mental health consultation, training, and resources for pediatric primary care providers.
Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP):
They provide resources and services for children and adolescents with mental health needs.
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC):
Various mental health and support services for children and families, including counseling, trauma services and more.
Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL):
Provides support, advocacy and resources for families and caregivers of children with mental health needs.
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH):
Offers a wide range of mental health services, including services for children and adolescents. They have several programs and resources for people in need of support.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts:
Also has various programs for children and parents.
The Home for Little Wanderers:
This organization offers a variety of services for children, including therapeutic residential programs, mental health counseling and family support.
Massachusetts School Health Alliance:
School-based health centers can be valuable resources for children’s mental health.
They offer a variety of services, including counseling and support.
Your Local Community Health Center:
Many community health centers offer behavioral health services for children and families.
To find a community health center near you, visit the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers website.
When seeking mental health assistance for children, it is important to check with these organizations and contact local resources.
In addition, you can contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider for guidance on childhood stress and referrals to appropriate services.
The information contained on the My Health Fair website should not be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations.
Readers should direct any questions regarding their personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate health care professionals.