Never in my 48 years in education have I witnessed so many children suffering from fear and anxiety. Their worlds were turned upside down which is bad enough. Their fears are chiefly driven by two contributors: News and the Lack of Strategies.
Historically, news creates fears because fear is a motivator to listen. Our primitive brains are constantly trying to protect us from possible harm so we tend to focus on negative threats over happy thoughts. Emphasis on safety creates fear. “Stay 6 feet apart” creates fear and anxiety. The past year our children have experienced, heard, or read about more reasons to be fearful. If one becomes settled and stops worrying, it’s guaranteed that the news will quickly change that state of mind.
So much of what we heard in the past could be traced back to a money making. Taking a look at all ads. They first point out something that is feared and then offer the solution. Again fear is the motivator that results in making a purchase of a product. The news stations need viewers so the advertisers have purchasers.
It’s been that way since the beginning of newspapers and magazines. When I grew up ,we didn’t have a television and I listened to the radio. The radio channels were entertainment driven not bad news driven. They were also supported by those who wished to sell their products. The free entertainment was a source of revenue for both the program and the producers of products who sold on their shows. One of my friends said he bought Brill Cream because a “Little Dab Will Do You,” promised the girls would like him. The shows motivated children to buy cereal so they could get the prize inside. Today the children are motivated to purchase the cereal for the prize and also because there is a horrible bug out there that is going to make them sick and the only solution is to eat the immunity building cereal.
Today’s news is all fear. We have teens who are giving up and don’t care about school because of the belief they have adopted about global warming. One boy stated, “What’s the use in studying, we’re going to burn up in 10 years. So I’d prefer to play my video games.”
There was a huge change in the amount of fear producing news we would hear in the beginning of television. Viewing was only available from 9 am to 11am. We had two 1 hours evening shows on a few stations. The exposure to negativity was limited for the children. In a sense, we were sheltered from it, which made our lives so much a happier. We had fewer worries and very few bad things happen when we were riding our bikes without helmets or riding in cars without being belted in. We were sent out to play without the fear of ‘Stranger Danger.”
Some of what we were made aware of and feared never happened. We were warned of the pending ice age. I vividly remember being scared to death of not having enough coats and begging my mother to buy me three or four, because I did not like being cold. We feared the Russians would attack us with an atomic bomb, so we ducked and covered. In retrospect, that would not have made a difference. If we would die in an atomic bomb, I would rather not be prepared. There was nothing anyone could do as children that would have saved their lives. So we experienced stress from that. We were leery of anyone who had a Russian accent, even my grandmother’s wonderful neighbor. They created an unnecessary fear for us and made us judge an innocent immigrant who fled their country because of tyranny.
There are a few things we can do to help children deal with the stress and anxiety resulting from exposure to news:
- Avoid having the television on that has news popping up randomly. I actually was getting a little depressed watching any free programing, that I cancelled my service and watch what I want on the internet.
- Watch television with your children and discuss what is being said so you can insert your perspective.
- Instead of helping them with their homework, offer strategies for completing their work independently. Strategies will reduce add stress created by homework. When students have no strategies for solving problems and they rely too heavily on others always helping them, they will act in a helpless fashion and this creates unnecessary added stress and anxiety to their lives. Strategies empower them and the feeling of confidence will be a stress reducer.