Should you talk to your kids about what’s going on in the news?


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Photo: Andrew Seaman via Flickr

Sometimes, life is changing so quickly the adults forget that the kids are still in the room. Kids can really suffer from anxiety and worry if they focus too much on the news, political changes, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. But these are very real aspects of our world which cannot be ignored, so what’s a parent to do? Read about some things you can do and say about our big, scary world in a way that gives kids a positive attitude and hopeful spirit.

Talk about it

Try though you may, you will not be able to completely shield even the youngest of children from reality. The news is on, adults talk, kids talk, you have windows. Your kid is going to see or hear things he or she may not understand or that are scary. Make sure your child is in a safe place (home, school, etc) and acknowledge that life can be scary, unfair and upsetting. Focus the conversation more on prevention, helping others and moving forward.

Listen up

Kids have questions. Answer them if you can. Allow your child to express his or her fears or worries, even if they are unreasonable. If they are unreasonable, reassure your child by showing or telling them how they are safe or what you’re doing to prevent (insert their fear). Again, acknowledge your child. Take his or her fears seriously and give him or her your full, undivided attention. Depending on your child and your family, this could be dinner conversation or bedtime talk.

Age-appropriate still applies

Little children need not hear about the ravages of war or the physical effects of a bio-toxin any more than they need to hear details of a sexual attack. It is up to adults to protect children from such news. If your child hears some scary news detail or is witness to some crime, it is still necessary to approach each child based on what they can emotionally and intellectually handle. Use terms like good guys and bad guys and remind your children that good always wins over evil in books, movies and real life too.

Turn off the news

Sometimes enough is enough. Just shut it off. We all know much of what is reported is bad news. If you need to see the news, watch it when the littles aren’t in the room, watch the late news, listen to news radio in the car, or just watch one show. Don’t keep the television on the news for hour after hour all day and night. They’re just repeating most of it anyway. Get your daily dose if you must, but then turn it off and go live life. Play catch or read a book with your kid instead.

Have your own plan

Emergencies happen. Disaster strikes. That’s why they’re called accidents. We’re not expecting them. We know they could happen and how scary it could be, so decide in advance what you should do. Make a plan and practice it with your kids. Have a fire escape plan and practice as a family. Keep an emergency kit in your house and car. Have a plan if disaster strikes and your family is all over town. Nobody wants to think of this stuff, but we should. If trouble happens and the kids are at school, you may or may not be able to get them, so make sure your kids know to follow their teachers’ directions and listen when they practice lock-downs.

As if the news and misinformation from kids at school aren’t enough, how about a grampa who believes that aliens are among us and will be coming out of the sky any day? My kids need Daddy and me to keep our ship steady, eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. All kids need a safe place to express their fears but also an honest answer even if we just don’t know. Of course, when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician or school psychologist with your specific questions. Otherwise, give your kids a firm grounding in love and faith, then sit back and try to enjoy the ride!

Mom to six great kids, educator and writer, I earned my BS at RI College and MEd at Providence College. My hats: educator, Go Au Pair Local Area Rep, tutor and writer of local blog for families and Au Pairs. Baking, gardening, reading and relaxing on the porch are hobbies.

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