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No News Is Good News (for Kids)

Amy Cloud of Bellingham, WA, used to be a TV news producer, but she decided to cancel her cable service when her 7-year-old daughter, Kiley, asked, "What's a beheading?"

World events can be frightening to kids  -- and even weather or traffic reports take on a scary edge when something out of the ordinary happens. School-age kids are old enough to understand what's being said on the TV or radio, but some may think that those endless replays of the same event mean it's happening all over again, says Tim Murphy, Ph.D., coauthor of The Angry Child and a U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania.

What's best is to limit your child's exposure to disturbing images: Read the paper or watch the news after your child's bedtime; follow breaking events online, or have a friend, rather than the TV, keep you updated. Since that's not always possible, here's how to help your child cope when he does see something scary:

• Give him something to do. You can help him feel more in control by saying, "I know it's sad, but maybe we can donate money to the Red Cross, or say a prayer for those families."

• Point out the helpers. Make sure your child hears about or sees the firefighters, policemen, EMT workers, and other people who are doing good. This'll reassure him that not everything about the situation is bad, and remind him that there'll be people to help him if needs it.

• Take action. If your child seems worried that something bad could happen in your area, together devise a plan that takes into account his concerns: Who'll pick him up from school if there's bad weather? Who can he call if you're not there? As Murphy says, it's better for your child to learn to deal with crises than pretend there are none.