With coverage of the war in Ukraine dominating the news, here are some tips to help you and your family stay informed but not overwhelmed by such a heavy and at times, severe news cycle.
To be clear: This isn’t about telling you what news outlets you should or shouldn’t pay attention to. This is about helping you navigate the news as it chronicles events playing out on the world stage.
Tip 1: Mindfulness. Be mindful of the news in your house. If you’re like most people, you turn on the TV or a news radio station and leave it on. Essentially it becomes background noise as you go about doing other things. But if you have small children in the house, what you need to be mindful of is that they are actively absorbing the information. If they are playing in the living room in front of the television news, which is showing bombs going off with the sounds of sirens blaring, then please understand this: to a small child, that scene isn’t happening in a far-off location. To a small child, it’s happening right in the living room. If you have a big screen TV and surround sound, then you are bringing the war to life in your home in a dramatic fashion. This can be quite scary to children, and cause them to feel unsafe in their own homes.
One of the lessons we learned from the news coverage of 9/11 is that the children exposed to those images and videos are now considered to be what is sometimes called the “scarred generation.” Those children are today’s millennials. Safety isn’t something they take for granted, as previous generations of Americans did. And if your children are online and using social media, you also want to be mindful of what they may come across in terms of images and videos of the war. Of course, it is up to you to decide just how much of the news you want your child to see and hear. What’s important is to realize they are actively paying attention to things you may be tuning out.
Tip 2: Monitor. Now that you know how important it is to be mindful of the news of the day, tip two is to monitor the news and decide what you think is appropriate for your children. Adjust your news consumption accordingly. That may mean less TV time or less time on the computer. If so, consider this an opportunity for more family time and carve out a space in your daily routine for activities that reinforce you are there for your kids.
Tip 3: Take Control. Take stock of how much time you are spending on a daily basis following the news coverage. It’s typical for families to spend upwards of eight hours a day watching television. When the news is severe, it’s more important than ever to set limits and take breaks from the news. As a general guideline, spend no more than one hour at a time watching, reading or listening to the news. Once you get beyond that one-hour mark, it’s common for people to feel depressed, anxious or stressed out. Don’t let the news impact your life in this way. It’s simply unhealthy.
One of the things people often do is sit down on the couch and turn on 24-hour cable news, and they keep watching because the news never stops. The thing to remember is today’s news formats are highly repetitive. That means you don’t have to worry about missing out on something important — that news will be replayed over and over, and it will be available online and on-demand. You’ll probably get a breaking news alert on your phone, too. So the fear of missing out doesn’t apply to today’s media landscape. Check-in on the news for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. The top of the hour is when the most important news is reported, so let this information help you decide when to check in on the news.
So, tip three is this: take control of when you let the news into your life and give yourself a break from the news. Spend more time with the family — go walk the dog, get to the gym, whatever. Remember, the news will be there. You won’t be missing out on anything.
Tip 4: Ask & Discuss Facts. Discuss what’s happening in the news, especially if you have children. It’s important to ask them what they think is going on. Use their perspectives to help you monitor the news you let into your house, and when. Don’t assume you know what they are thinking. Ask them.
Tip 5: Ask How the News Makes Them Feel. Dovetailing from tip four is this: Be sure to ask your kids how the news makes them feel. This is very important because they may not know how to articulate and process their feelings without your help. Bear in mind that images of war and man’s inhumanity to man are frightening, even to the strongest of adults.
That’s it. Seems like common sense stuff, when you think about it. But that’s the key: People seldom actively think about the news coverage. They simply take it in. Now more than ever, It’s critical to take control of your news habits, for the health and well-being of you and your family. Set the limits that are right for you.
I hope you found this helpful, and if so, please share it with friends and family. I also hope the journalists covering the war stay safe, that peace is restored promptly, and that your children’s children never know war.
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