Sunday 20 October 2019

Dear David Coleman: My five-year-old blocks his ears and talks loudly if there is anything 'emotional' on TV. Why is he doing this?

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David Coleman

David Coleman

Q When my five-year-old is watching something "emotional" on TV or in a film, he starts talking gibberish really loudly at the top of his voice, as if to block out what's going on onscreen. Sometimes he even puts his fingers over his ears and won't look at the TV. What's going on here? Is he trying to block out emotional turmoil? It's funny to watch him, but curious too.

David replies: From how you describe it, it does seem like your son is trying to avoid the emotional intensity of some scenes in the programmes or movies he watches. At emotionally stressful times, it is easy for a young child to be "flooded", or emotionally overwhelmed, by the experience.

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Sometimes children can get themselves through such emotionally challenging moments, by doing as your son does, filtering them out or blocking them.

This is not that unusual, and you may see that other children (even adults) do something similar, like watching a scary scene through their fingers, or by just peeking sporadically at the TV, rather than by sustained viewing of it. During gory scenes in adult movies, many people may turn away or groan at the sight, as a way of reducing the emotional impact.

I think your son may be displaying an exaggerated version of this.

It might help him, if you empathise with how upsetting the scenes seem to be and that it can be hard to watch sad/scary things. It might also be worth reviewing the content of what he's watching to ensure the content is more suitable to his emotional development.

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