The impact of news on foster children

The impact of news on foster children

If the world is sometimes a scary place for adults, how are foster children coping?
News over the past few months has quite frankly been frightening and we don’t often consider the consequences for individuals involved including families, organisations and the world economy. The huge loss of life and devastation through terrorism is reaching epic proportions. Our screens show live-time violence, natural disasters and interview after interview of doom and gloom politics.
Foster caring is a huge responsibility and I would like you to consider the impact all of this is having on foster children—how you understand them and their actions at this time, and how as a foster carer, you can be more attuned to them.

Consider how your foster child understands what they see and hear on the TV—what is their dominant sense?

We are sensory beings and usually we are affected by one more than others. So is your child more sensitive to tactile clues, taste and smell or are they more visual or sound orientated?

Sensitive to tactile clues

If your foster child is sensitive to tactile clues they will be more aware of physical clues. When there has been a flood and it’s raining heavily, they may worry. Worrying will make them clingier, so plan on a good reassuring cuddle without them having to ask for it. The thought of being separated from those they love is terrible so the news and photos of people being separated and losing their homes will be troubling.

Encourage your foster child to do something to help you, like making a donation to a relief fund, or packing u clothes for a charity. Doing something physical helps with tangible assurance that their world is okay and that they can help others.

Sensitive to taste and smell

If a child is sensitive to taste and smell their senses will respond first to your emotion about the situation and then only to the facts. A loss of appetite or overeating may indicate their distress. Being overly sympathetic, they will feel exceedingly sorry for the people who have lost their belongings, homes and family.

If your foster child is sensitive to taste and smell, they would do better with a much edited version of world events. Be sure to include conversation about all the efforts of the people and countries who help the disaster victims and allow them to do something to help. The foster child with an acute taste and smell sense feel deeply and find it hard to let go of feelings until they know things are okay.
The visually orientated foster child

A visually orientated foster child will be very affected by the coverage of the disasters. Be careful about what they see. Ideally discuss the event first to prepare them for the images. Remember that the ‘floods’ gobbling up houses, people, cars and trucks are not the same as the local lake or river—your foster child may not associate the difference. In this circumstance have them watch the re-building efforts. This will show that life goes on and the scary images don’t stay scary forever.

Sensitive hearing

If your foster child’s hearing is sensitive, they will feel bombarded by the news repetition of a disaster. They may feel there is no escape from the same story. Anxiety will come both from the story itself and from the bombardment of sound.

It is best to turn off the news when you observe this, even if you want to watch it yourself. Allow your foster child to ask questions and do your best to answer them without creating further anxiety. Your foster child may need to describe the disaster in their own voice in order to process and understand it. If their play becomes verbal recreations of the disaster don’t stop them. It will help with their comprehension and processing of what has happened. Use this playtime to emphasise the distant location of the event, hopefully reducing their anxiety.

By being aware of your foster child’s interpretation of world events, you can make sure they don’t become overwhelmed, but also teach them empathy for the plight of others and be sure you are empathetic to your foster child’s age and sensory nature. If you’re continually watching the news, consider the impact on others.
There is nothing more powerful than the everyday routines, which is why they are so important for babies and toddlers. Our need for our routines as adults never leaves us; anyone in distress benefits from consistent, reaffirming messages. One of my routines is to watch the news at least twice a day, and more if I can. Our children are grown up and have left home, but this weekend my partner pleaded with me to turn the TV off due to the bombardment of what has felt like weeks of gloom and despair in our living room.

So I switched off and wrote this blog.

Estella Abraham
CEO Key Assets