Helping kids make sense of the news

With so much happening in the news, how do we protect our children from the tragedy on the screens? By ELLIE GWILLIAM from Parenting Place.

One of our goals as parents is to maintain a safe, secure environment for our kids and to prepare them to face the world confidently. We can control what happens within our homes, but outside of that space, we’re less able to apply our preferred filters. All parents with a radio have been there – that moment when the newsreader announces the latest atrocity, disaster or scandal, straight into the curious ears of our children, and we’re left fumbling for the volume control. Bad news is a fact of life, but how much should we let our kids in on this reality?

Provide Shelter
A valid parenting response is to shelter our children as much as possible. Depending on your family culture and the sensitivity of your children, it can be best to avoid exposing your kids to news broadcasts full stop, especially when you know a disturbing story is unfolding. While it’s good for our children to be aware of current affairs, they’re not missing out on anything developmentally if they don’t watch television news or listen to the radio. 

Provide perspective
It’s different, of course, if children are directly affected by something, and they need some perspective on it. Just keep in mind that any information should be delivered through an age-appropriate lens. Talk to your kids about relevant news stories and ask what they are afraid of. Their fears might be wildly amplified beyond real risks. Be honest with them about the safety of where you live. The truth might be very reassuring. There is value for older children in seeing how events affect people, and also how humanity responds to good times and bad. 

Provide peace
As sweet as it may seem, it is unrealistic to expect that our children can live in a modern world and be utterly oblivious to pain and suffering. People make mistakes. Nature spontaneously implodes and explodes. But there is also good, beauty and cause for celebration. Our kids will invariably hear bad news, but we can counter this by saturating their hearts and minds with inspirational messages of hope. Tell them all about heroic acts of bravery and rescue, generous acts of philanthropy and the incredible power of small acts of kindness.

Provide your kids with enough age-appropriate information to answer their questions and calm their fears, then direct them to a more peaceful state of mind. Remind them how loved they are by the caring adults in their world. 

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