The outside world can be a scary place, and kids need to know they can go to mom and dad for help answering their big questions about what they see on the news and hear at school. There are hard questions in life, and as a parent, you may be amazed at the big questions your little ones may come up with.
From the refugee crisis to school shootings, having answers for your children will help put them at ease and reinforce the importance of open communication between the two of you. With our ever growing accessibility to media outlets, it may seem difficult to escape the chaos that comes with overwhelming or disheartening news. Although you may feel daunted by questions sparked by the news during parenthood, do not let yourself become overwhelmed, because there are many positive ways to teach your children about difficult topics.
When young children see or hear about scary events on the news they may become overwhelmed or not fully understand the depth of what they are seeing; even adults struggle with news coverage topics! Because of this we've made a short list of tips to keep in mind when talking with a concerned little one:
1. It's okay to not know the answers. Offer to research positive solutions to your child's concerns with them; that way you're able to learn together and share the experience.
2. Be available to talk. Being available to talk with your child, not only fosters good communication skills, but it helps form a trusting relationship when hard conversations do arise.
3. How do you react? Do you exaggerate scenes off the news or blow them out of proportion? Having a parent who reacts calmly to albeit alarming news, often times sets the example to their children on how to behave when uncertainties arise in your community.
4. Emphasize that your family is safe. It's important to validate your child's fears, but reassure them that they are safe. You can emphasize that they will not be separated from you. If a particular event on the news happened far away, you can use physical distance as a way to calm their fears depending on their ability to think abstractly.
5. Take into consideration your child's maturity. Depending on the age of your child, it's okay to explain to them what is happening. It is important to tailor your message according to your child's maturity.
6. Make an emergency plan. Having a plan in the case of a real life emergency not only brings peace of mind to your child, it also helps reassure you if an emergency situation were to occur.
While trying to answer your child's questions throughout childhood and later into young adulthood, remember that no parent is perfect. Every family will have their own way of navigating difficult topics, but by making yourself available to talk and by tailoring your message to your child, you will be able to instill a feeling of safety and confidence within the walls of your home. If you have any additional questions regarding how to talk to your children about the news, visit this article from Common Sense Media or contact one of our Parent Support Specialist at 801-691-5322.