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Dealing with scary news

Forum addresses the concerns and fears of children.

On April 4, Sharapan, a guest of the "Nurturing our Neighborhood: The 2003 Open Doors, Open Minds Forum" presented by the Children's Museum of Richmond in partnership with the Community Idea Stations, was in Richmond helping parents, educators and caregivers deal with children's concerns and fears. According to Sharapan, parents need to deal with their own anxieties first, remaining calm and in control when they talk to their children. "Children know that something is going on that is serious," Sharapan says. "They pick up on their parents' anxiety."

"Attitude is caught not taught," she adds. Children need to see adults who have found healthy way to express their emotions. "The younger the child, the more in tune they are with your nonverbal cues. A child relies on how you hold them. For example, are you comfortable and relaxed when you hold your child?"

The key to helping children deal with fear and anxiety is to find healthy ways for them to express their feelings. "It's ok to be angry but it's not ok to hurt," Sharapan says, quoting from a Mister Rogers' song. Physical outlets like pounding clay or dough, dancing and running are good outlets for young children. Another suggestion: Have the child draw angry pictures or talk about their angry feelings to a puppet.

Parents need to judge if their child needs to hear about scary news. If the child has heard the news, how is he or she handling it? "Look for cues," Sharapan says.

Here are a few tips compiled by Fred Rogers and Hedda Bluestone Sharapan during the Persian Gulf War that will help parents guide their children through turbulent times.

1. Help children feel secure. Let them know that as adults we will do our best to keep them safe and care for their needs.

2. Focus on the helpers. Focus attention on the many caring people in the world.

3. Limit children's television viewing of the news events.

4. Limit your own television viewing.

5. Be a good listener.

6. Monitor children's play.

7. Help your children learn to handle anger constructively. Show them how to deal with their angry feelings in healthy

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