Helping Your Young Child Cope with Fright in Hong Kong

Published on August 6, 2019

By Andrew Adler, Ph.D., Director and Clinical Psychologist,

Adler Family Centre, Hong Kong

Recent news in Hong Kong may have confused and frightened many of our children. As adults, it’s a challenge for many of us to remain calm after seeing videos and photos of, hearing about and even witnessing these events. Imagine how our children, especially those who are quite young, may feel.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take as a parent to minimize the negative impact of recent events on your young child. Here are some suggestions about how you can help your child cope with feelings of fear that may arise from learning about and even witnessing these events.


Monitor and Control Exposure to Media

Being overly exposed to reports of frightening images or words associated with recent events (e.g., repeatedly watching video clips on TV or social media) can result in anxiety and other psychological difficulties in young children.

Watch news and social media videos with your child

You can provide reassurance to your child by helping your child understand and place information in context.

Limit your child’s exposure to graphic images and videos

Young children are often less frightened when they read written accounts of, or when they hear them read by you, rather than watching TV coverage or videos. Also, don’t allow your child to watch graphic news or videos just before bedtime.


Engage Your Child

Try to create an environment in which your child feels safe to discuss what he or she is feeling.

Provide your child with opportunities for discussion

Discuss what your child sees in the media. Encourage your child to ask questions and express concerns. However, don’t force your child to talk.

Acknowledge and validate your child’s concerns

When you acknowledge and validate your child’s concerns, your child is likely to feel understood and accepted by you. Acknowledge your child’s fears even if they seem exaggerated or illogical to you.

Reassure your child

Tell your child that is okay to feel upset, mad or scared.

Avoid making your child talk

Some children, especially those who are younger, have great difficulty talking about frightening experiences. For these children, drawing a picture that describes their feelings is much easier than talking about them. If you ask your child to draw a picture, you can then discuss what he or she has drawn.

Be honest

You should also be honest and avoid pretending that nothing is wrong. Make sure you discuss recent events using age-appropriate language.


When to Get Help for Your Child

In most cases, your child’s feelings of fear will not last long and will lessen over time. However, if your child’s fear or other negative reaction is so intense and persistent that it interferes with his or her functioning at home, in school or with friends, you may need to seek help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist or other counsellor.

Category(s):Anxiety, Child Development, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Written by:

Andrew Adler, Ph.D.

Andrew Adler, Ph.D. is the director of the Adler Family Centre and the Honorary Consultant (Psychology) at OUHK-LiPACE. He is a licensed psychologist in New York State (US) and has specialised in evaluating and treating a wide range of psychological difficulties for the past 20 years. He earned doctoral and master degrees in clinical psychology from Yale University after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. He taught at Yale University and supervised medical students as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. In his work in hospitals, clinics and private practice, Dr. Adler has evaluated and treated the full range of psychological difficulties experienced by children, adolescents, adults and their families. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, he was a psychologist in Shanghai for three years, treating and assessing children and adolescents, both expats and local residents.