Terrorism and mass shootings: Are you passing on your anxieties to your kids?

Posted at 8:35 AM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 08:35:10-04

CUTLERVILLE, Mich. -- With video and images of terror attacks and mass shootings dominating our TVs, a Pine Rest psychotherapist says that children learn how to cope with tragedy from their parents, which means that when you're worried, they are likely more worried.

"We’re living in an age where we get a lot of media attention about legitimate things to be afraid of," said Pine Rest psychotherapist Todd Monroe. "I do think that over parenting is one risk we have for not handling those emotions very well and not having a place to go when processing that fear."

Even if the terror isn't at home, Monroe says it's hard to ignore, and it often causes stress as parents to worry about the personal safety of them and kids.

"As parents, we have to be aware that we’re struggling with fear, and we need somewhere to go to process those feelings, and that somewhere is not with our children," Monroe said. "If that emotional turmoil keeps us from being fully present with our child, then we only have ourselves to blame."

When you're feeling on edge, Monroe recommends talking it out with adult family members or friends.

"Any time a parent has a hard time dealing with their anxiety or emotions in general, kids have a way of compensating for that," Monroe said. They take responsibility for the happiness of their parent. This can lead children to become perfectionists, anxious and even scared.

Monroe says children need to see confident parents who are enjoying life. Yes, he says, we live in an uncertain world, but control your fear, it'll help your kids feel safe.

In doing this, you're not ignoring world events, says Monroe. "We’re not just going to be naive people or people who don’t care about society. At the same time, taking responsibility for our own emotional action to be people who are thriving and passionate and living with purpose and joy, I think our kids then feel very confident as human beings because they too can be happy."

One last piece of advice: educate yourself on the probabilities that events will affect your family to reduce anxiety as a parent. For example, you are far more likely to die from heart disease or cancer than a terrorist attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control.