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Out Of Balance: Helping Kids Survive 24/7 News Cycle

I once worked with a personal trainer who started my 150 hours with her by doing an evaluation of my current fitness level.

I went into the whole thing a little proud of myself. I was a pretty active person and was able to do more physically than many in similar shape.

At the end of the evaluation, she said, “We are going to spend the next few sessions on balance. You have the worst balance I’ve ever seen and without balance and core strength, the rest of what we are going to do won’t work. You need a good foundation.”

Balance? Really? I wanted to be fit and trim, not learn how to stand up straight.

Our next session she began running me through a battery of balancing exercises. From a distance, these simple movements appeared simple and effortless.

In actuality, they were the hardest things I’d ever done physically. My whole body hurt afterward.

She was right. I had terrible balance. She even targeted my weak side and made me work on it the most and I could hardly walk afterward.

My balance affected everything, and it was absolutely holding me back from the other exercises I deemed most important.

Similarly, as a society, we lack balance, and without balance, we are building on a weak foundation.

The repercussions of that on the next generation from a distance may look like no big deal, but in actuality, could be creating major problems for our kids that we can’t even see.

A recent article in The New York Times raised a question that I have been asking myself: What is a Constant Cycle of Violent News Doing to Us?

“Living in a digitally linked world where broadcasts of violence are instantaneous and almost commonplace means that many of us are becoming desensitized,” the article asserted. “That exposure to violent imagery on social media can cause symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, defined as a persistent emotional reaction to a traumatic event that severely impairs one’s life.”

From watching and hearing the news? Doesn’t that seem a bit dramatic? I don’t think so. I think it is spot on.

This constant flow of news into our homes, cars, screens and lives is having a negative effect on us as a people.

I would never advocate for ignorance or withdrawing from society and pretending these things don’t exist.

Yet, as parents and ministers, it behooves us to demonstrate for our children and youth the necessary practice of balance and Sabbath rest.

The article advises, “If you have children, the American Psychological Association recommends asking them how they are feeling about the news. Keep in mind that it is possible for children to be influenced by news reports and the adult conversations around them.”

Children are not immune to what is happening. They “read” us even if they can’t read the news.

“Going out of your way to avoid interacting with strangers – by taking mass transit, for example – can stoke fear and anxiety in children,” the article states.

Children read our emotions and our actions and use it as a framework to approach their world.

They “hear” us even if they can’t hear the radio.

Our verbal reactions become their language for approaching their world. If fear and worry lace our words, if anger and frustration overlay our tone, and if despair and hopelessness fill our speech, they hear it, even if they don’t understand it.

They “feel” us even if they can’t feel for those in the news.

Children have the uncanny ability to pick up on what adults in their lives are feeling and it concerns them.

They can pick up on more than we realize because they are always with us and always watching us, learning from us how to approach life.

This is why balance is essential – it offers a chance to see things from more than one perspective.

I’m not saying we should ignore all the heartache in this world or deny the existence of difficult things, but we should also purposefully seek out the good as well.

The good won’t be dished out to us 24/7 by the media and piped into our home over the airways.

It will take work on our part to “see the helpers,” as Mister Rogers shared. It will take action on our part to get up and be the good in the world so our children can see us participating instead of insulating.

It will take intentionality to withdraw from the news for a time, to turn off the TV, turn down the radio, shut the computer screen and allow space for rest and peace and reminders of the good.

Christina Embree is director of children and family ministries at Nicholasville United Methodist Church near Lexington, Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on her website, Refocus Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbreeChristina.