700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Caring for Children After Exposure to Race-Related Violence in the Media

Jun 03, 2020
African american child doing research on their laptop

Although caregivers try to protect children from traumatic events, many children witness and are aware of the violence occurring in their world. It is important for caregivers to talk to their children and be mindful of the stress they may experience related to these events.

How Can Media Coverage of These Events Affect My Child?

Children can be impacted differently depending on their stage of development:

  • Children between 3-5 years old may interpret events literally and think that the sights and sound they hear are happening repeatedly.
  • Children between 6-11 years old may view media coverage personally and worry that similar events can happen to them or their family.
  • Older children and adolescents may become anxious and fixate on events as a way to cope.

What Should I Consider If I Am Raising a Child of Color?

  • Children of color in particular, can experience increased anxiety and worry following incidents of racial violence. In addition, they are more likely to be affected by the “generational trauma” of their community which may make their response to stress more intense.
  • Witnessing incidents of racial violence can lead to increased feelings of threat or suspicion.
  • Children of color may also worry about the future and fear that their life will be shortened.
  • Remember, behaviors such as aggression, sadness, difficulties paying attention, and sleep problems can be signs of trauma in response to witnessing racial violence.

What Can I DO to Help My Child?

  • Try to limit children’s exposure to media coverage. Anxiety and depression can increase with repeated viewing.
  • Talk to children at their developmental level and encourage them to verbalize their feelings. Ask them questions to understand what they’re thinking (“What makes you think that?” “What happened that made you feel that way?” “Why do you think that is?”)
  • For teens, spend time watching and discussing with them. Ask about what they are thinking and feeling. Ask what they have seen. It may be an opportunity to clear up confusion or misunderstanding.
  • Read books that may help them understand similar situations.
  • Remember to monitor you child’s emotions before, during, and after discussions.
  • Remind children that they are in a physical safe space and support predictability and routines to the extent that is possible for your family. (We know that for many families, circumstances may not make this possible).
  • Show examples of “helpers” in their community who are taking care of others.
  • It is important to take care of your own feelings and stress surrounding the events. That way you will be more able to manage the complex emotions your child may be feeling.

Always remember, that if you are concerned about your child’s ability to cope, seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist is always an option. If you have a child who can benefit from services, contact Nationwide Children’s Behavioral Health Intake Department at (614) 355-8080. Learn more at NationwideChildrens.org/Behavioral-Health.

Resources: National Traumatic Stress Network

Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital
For more information, click here.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.