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Dr. Poonam Khanna, DO: Concerns about our Children

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Q. We often turn on the news when we come home from work, and our children hear the news while they are home. Lately, my 10-year-old son has had more difficulty going to sleep and asks many questions about people getting killed in the world. I am wondering if watching the news is affecting how safe he feels.

A. Today, the news is heard and seen through various media, including social media. There is great likelihood that children will hear about world events one way or another. However, hearing and seeing distressing events, such as violence, crimes and natural disasters, may cause increased stress and anxiety in children, and it may exacerbate fears that they already have. Taking into account the maturity level of the child, their developmental level and their age should help guide parents in knowing what is appropriate for their child to view.

It is important to monitor and limit the amount of time a child watches news shows, and parents should sit with their children to watch the news and to provide reassurance regarding their safety. Talking with your child about what they are seeing or hearing is important so that the parent can help avoid negative impacts on the child. Ask your child if they have any questions so that you can assess how safe they feel and help reframe any negative thoughts for them. It is not realistic to be able to shield our children completely, but it is important for them to feel safe and have a good understanding of the world around them.

Q. My 15-year-old daughter has become more guarded with us and seems to have withdrawn from our family. I am not sure if I should be worried; is this normal behavior for a teenager who is trying to assert her independence?

A. It is important to identify the context in which this is occurring. If there have been changes that are unusual and negative for her, then it may be time for her to see a mental health professional that can assess her mood as well as other factors that may be contributing to the changes that you see in her. Has your daughter stopped doing activities that she used to enjoy? Has she had any trouble with other relationships? Is she spending most of her time alone when she used to enjoy hanging out with friends? Has her energy declined, is her sleep disrupted, have her grades dropped, and/or have you seen her as more sad, tearful, irritable or angry? Are there any concerns of self-harm? If she is presenting with any or all of these changes, it is important that she see a professional who can do a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and treat her symptoms appropriately. ■


Dr. Khanna founded Minds That Matter, in Overland Park, KS, to better serve the needs of the community. She was on faculty, at The University of Kansas Medical Center, for many years before that and continues there as voluntary faculty. She has also been an Assistant Professor at KCUMB.  Contact Dr. Khanna at 913.912.7054.