Pediatric psychiatrist: Watch for signs of children’s emotional distress from kidnapping news

Youngsters exposed to events such as terror attacks, violence, death and abductions, even just on the news, may be deeply affected.

child 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
child 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The continued saturation in the media of reporting on the kidnapping of three youths may cause fear in children, according to a Ziv Medical Center psychiatrist expert, who urges parents to note any behavior changes.
Dr. Ilana Farbstein, director of the psychiatric unit for children and youth at the Safed hospital, said parents, as well as teachers, should pay attention to children’s behavior to see if they are stressed due to the traumatic events.
Youngsters exposed to events such as terror attacks, violence, death and abductions – if only via the media and not from a personal connection, may be deeply affected. Even if children do not seem to be aware of what is going on, said Farbstein, they are exposed through TV, radio, Internet and newspapers to coverage that could cause them personal distress. It is best to limit the amount of news to which younger children are exposed, she advised.
Children are always sensitive to their parents’ reactions, but they are much more sensitive at a time of distress.
“The way the child understands his parents’ worries, fears and behaviors will influence the way in which he understands the event and reacts.”
Farbstein recommended a parent-child talk on the traumatic event. Parents should provide information calmly and in a controlled way, answer any questions, allow expressions of concern and give the child a feeling of security, she said.
If the family lives close to where the kidnapping occurred, the danger of distress developing is higher, though the amount of anxiety will vary according to the child’s age, she said.
Worrisome behavior changes include refusing to go to school while “clinging” to the parents; repeated or continuing thoughts about the kidnapping; difficulty sleeping, bedwetting and nightmares; a low mood and anger; reduced concentration; behavioral problems that the child did not show before; unexplained physical complaints such as stomach aches, headaches or dizziness; and avoiding usual activities and preferring to be alone. If these symptoms continue for more than a few days, consult a professional, Farbstein concluded.

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