We live in an age where it’s practically impossible to escape news and information. We see, hear and read news through traditional mediums like TV and newspapers, but we’re also now force-fed information on our phones and social media.
It’s tough to control our media diet in the era of the 24-7 news cycle. And regardless of which side of the aisle you side, the current political climate is often described as toxic. Consuming too much news can have a serious effect on our overall health.
Parents also have their children to worry about. Like us, our kids are hearing about current events from all kinds of sources.
What can parents do to help their children make sense of the news – particularly when it involves a tragic event such as a mass shootings?
Consider their age
First of all, you should consider your child’s age and their maturity level. If they are 7 or younger, you probably can, and probably should, limit the amount of news they are exposed to.
As your kids get older, they are going to start hearing and seeing more both from the media and from their friends at school. You need to be available for them for conversation and to answer any questions they might have.
As they transition to their teen years, their questions will intensify. At that point, they’ll be consuming news completely independently of you, so check in from time to time to see what their concerns are and what beliefs they’re developing. Encourage them to express themselves, especially about the issues they’re passionate about.
One of the biggest challenges in explaining current events to young children is that they tend to view the world in black-and-white terms when most issues are nuanced and full of shades of grey.
Carefully explain to them that the world is a complex place and a lot of problems have no easy solutions. How detailed you get will again depend on their age.
Assure them they are safe and loved
With so many scary things happening, it’s easy for children to grow anxious and stressed.
It’s important to be honest with your kids and that means acknowledging that bad things can happen, but those occurrences are still exceptionally rare. Despite high-profile shootings, schools and children are safer than they’ve ever been.
You can’t shelter you children from the world, but you can always assure them that they are loved and you will do everything within your power to protect them.
We’re more polarized than ever politically and that is going to have some sort of effect on your kids. You likely have different political beliefs than many of your children’s friends’ parents, and since kids tend to take what their parents say as gospel, those beliefs are going to trickle down and eventually your child will have a disagreement with a friend.
When talking about the news, be sure to explain to your kids that disagreement is natural and that differing opinions shouldn’t preclude friendship. Encourage acceptance and tolerance for others, even when your opinions diverge.
Of course, in order to have these conversations, you need to be educated about the issues yourself. That in itself is a challenge with so much misinformation out there.
While being cognizant of avoiding information overload, stay up to date on current events by reading a daily newspaper and watching the evening news. Improving our own media literacy is important for all of us as concerned citizens.
Explaining current events to your kids is certainly complicated, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to help them cultivate their passions and get involved in their community.
Maybe your child is especially disheartened by stories of homelessness. So take them to a local soup kitchen to volunteer for an afternoon. Check out Volunteermatch.org to find a local cause that matches with your child’s interests.
Discover what they are interested in and encourage them to learn more about whatever it is. Sure, the news is often distressing, but let your children know they can take action and be a part of solving some of the world’s problems rather than remaining a passive bystander.