How to talk to kids about the news
I have always been a bit of a news junky – I feel better being informed about the status of the world. I enjoy politics (or rather am enthralled by them) and watching the news just makes me feel a bit smarter. However, as my children have grown and have come to understand and be able to process what is on the news, I have felt the need to safeguard what I watch in front of them and think carefully about how to explain some of the heavier events to them. I mean, politics aside, the last presidency was PG-13 on its best days and covid-19 has been a frightful journey; now there is a war in Ukraine and the coming uptick of summer domestic violence… It’s a lot to handle for adults, never mind children! However, there are some strategies that I, as a mother of 3, have found to be helpful. Every family and every child are different but this is what I have learned about my boys:
– Age is an important gauge for understanding but so is maturity level. My oldest child is definitely more observant and sensitive than my middle child, but my middle child is definitely more able to categorize events that affect him versus those that do not. Just because a child is “older” does not mean he/she is necessarily able to process more about current events.
– Kids are always listening. Even when you think they aren’t, they are.
– It is better to give age-appropriate explanations than to avoid topics. Kids talk to each other at school, at sporting events, at the park – once children begin to form their own friendships the idea that you can censor what they learn about and what they don’t is nearly impossible. It is better, as a parent, to give children logical explanations than to have them seek out answers from other children.
– Don’t lie. Kids always find out when parents lie to them, and it erodes trust. It is better to present age-appropriate information than to lie to get out of an uncomfortable conversation.
– Children are smarter than adults give them credit for and can handle more than adults often think.
– Exposure to news and real-world problems allows children to build grit slowly.
– Every parent knows their child best. Parents shouldn’t feel pressure to make their kids grow up or pressure to shelter them from world events. Every family has their own unique priorities and should be respected.
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