Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, you’ve probably noticed that recent current events have caused a collective uptick in panic and worry. Even if the Girl Scouts in your troop aren’t particularly tuned into the news, the reactions and emotions of the adults in their lives can spill over onto them. Of course, we want to keep girls informed so they can make wise choices to stay healthy and safe, but we also don’t want to unnecessarily sow panic. It can be hard to figure out how to strike a balance between too much information and too little. Read on for a few tips on helping your troop process those breaking headlines, and how to assuage media-related fears.
Vet Your Sources
It’s a race to be the first to break the news. In the rush to publish, details might not be fully verified, which can result in the spread of misinformation. Sifting fact from fiction can be especially challenging with the advent of social media. Your sister’s boyfriend’s best friend’s cousin just tweeted some alarming statistics—you can trust them, right? Maybe not so fast.
Even reporters who are tasked with covering the facts can get the particulars wrong, especially when it comes to stories that are still unfolding. Check where you’re getting your information from. Consult more than one news outlet and do your own fact-checking via reputable resources like FactCheck.org and Snopes. This is a critical media literacy skill that everyone can benefit from. (Like many essential life skills, there’s also a Girl Scout badge for this—troop leaders of Seniors, check out the Truth Seeker badge!)
Limit the News
In a twenty-four-hour news cycle, the constant pinging of notifications and alerts can make everything seem more pressing and urgent than it actually is. Because our brains are primed to focus on potential threats, the endless barrage of information can also lead to increased anxiety and stress. Make a point of turning off the television and stepping away from the phone.
Young children especially have a hard time understanding exactly what they’re seeing and hearing on the news, so be mindful of what you’re watching and talking about when they’re around. With older kids, watch or read the news together so they always have a trusted adult to help them digest information and work through the emotions that it might bring up.
Listen to Their Concerns
Speaking of emotions, if your girls do come to you and say they’re concerned about what they’ve been hearing, validate their feelings. The knee-jerk reaction is often to respond with a quick, “Don’t worry!” or “There’s nothing to worry about!” which only sweeps their very real emotions under the rug. Instead, offer space for them to vocalize what they’re worried about. Sometimes just being able to put it into words and know that someone is listening to them can alleviate those feelings. Then, reassure and remind girls that it’s perfectly normal to be scared by scary news, but the caring adults in their lives are there to keep them safe.
Remind Them That They’re Powerful
As much as we hope for otherwise, bad things happen. When they do happen, they can overwhelm and incapacitate us. While the instinct might be to throw our hands up in defeat, remember that we can all do something to make the world a better place—it’s our responsibility as Girl Scouts. Your troop can engage with their negative feelings in a positive way by helping others. Getting involved in their community can mitigate their sense of powerlessness and can boost a feeling of purposefulness.
Stick to Routines
When everything else feels chaotic, stick to routines as much as possible—that means regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and even chores. (Sorry, kids!) Maintaining normalcy is important for kids whose world might be topsy-turvy in other respects. Routines give kids a sense of order and familiarity, both which can be comforting in times of stress.
We can’t bury our heads in the sand and only pop back up once everything’s all fine and dandy, but neither do we have to succumb to fear and anxiety. Instead, aim for calm precaution versus panicked overreaction. Finally, your girls look up to you as their leader in how to approach the frightening and the unknown, so be sure to take care of yourself as well.
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).