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TV and movies: how can I tell if my child is getting upset?

Most preschoolers will show signs as they are watching a television program that disturbs them. They may cover their eyes, or say something as they are watching. Some will not show signs at all, however, or may become silent as they watch, so it can be tricky to tell.

Some children may only show signs that they have been disturbed by something they’ve seen later on – by re-enacting the scene, for instance, or by having nightmares or being afraid to sleep. If you do notice that your child seems disturbed, it’s perfectly alright to switch off the television, or to leave the room or cinema. If your child then wants to talk about the incident or scene that disturbed him or her, then be prepared to answer questions, and reassure your child that it was only a movie, and that what happened there is not going to happen to them.

One good way of avoiding this kind of trouble is to watch the movies or programmes you’d like your child to see first. That way, you can pick up on anything potentially disturbing, although you should remember that it’s not always the obvious that bothers children. Many children are upset by Bambi’s mother dying, for instance, although the movie itself is designed for children. Once you’re happy that there’s nothing potentially worrying in the program or film, watch it with your child, but make sure that you are still ready to answer any questions.

If your child is very sensitive, then it’s always good to remember that hearing a story – like a book on tape or a story that you read, is less likely to be disturbing. That’s because it’s your child’s own imagination that determines the imagery that accompanies it.

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