When news causes anxiety

A mother told us about her daughter’s anxiety and insomnia due to constantly watching the news. Her daughter hasn’t been able to stop herself from watching even though it is making her feel worse. Here is some background information to help you if this is also a problem in your family.

Uncertainty breeds anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the pandemic has created a moment of incredible uncertainty. Uncertainty creates anxiety. When individuals experience uncertainty, they want to gather as much information as possible to feel more in control. (ADAA) Watching the news, hoping for information that will assure certainty, can increase anxiety when not all the facts are available.

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Tips if your child is feeling anxious about the news

TIP 1: Practice Acceptance.

The ADAA recommends that instead of watching the news and doom-scrolling, we need to “practice acceptance of what is beyond our control and to refocus our attention on things we can control.”

TIP 2: Be mindful of how watching the news makes you feel.

Ask your teen how watching the news makes her feel and suggest time limits to her consumption of news. Is the news actually helpful or making your teen feel worse; suggest that she respond accordingly.

TIP 3: Set a plan to watch the news with your child and/or discuss the content of the news of the day.

The APA recommends that parents set guidelines about what time of the day the family checks the news. (APA) If your child is young, try to make sure the news is not on unless you or a trusted adult is monitoring what they are hearing and seeing. Ask your children what they think about the news and take time to listen to their response. Remind your children and teens to stick to trusted news sites to gather information.

TIP 4: Shift attention to supporting others.

Psychologist Lisa Damour notes that research indicates “teens feel better when they turn their attention to support others” during difficult moments in life. (NY Times, 3/11/20)