How to Talk With Kids About Today's News
By Sandy Schroeder
Our world is drowning in violent news with spontaneous eruptions that can be hard to explain to kids. You may be doing your best to help your kids keep their balance, but still feel overwhelmed by their exposure to depressing news.
Caroline at CommonsenseMedia.org often focuses on ways to help kids handle today's world. Researchers have shown heavy exposure to media violence in video games and movies can have negative effects. Now researchers are looking at the effects of remote exposure. This occurs when kids know something major has happened but they have not directly experienced it. They may see disturbing images without knowing what is going on. Limit their exposure as much as possible and talk about anything that they have seen.
Ages 2 to 6
- Shield them from horrendous events whenever possible
- Don't bring up major events, unless you know they have been exposed to it.
- Help them see the difference between real and fantasy
- Assure them they and their family are safe
- Simplify descriptions of complex events and then change the subject
Ages 7 to 12
Listen to what they are saying - Find out what they have heard and what their reaction is and then find time to just sit and talk and sort through the subject when it comes up.
Monitor their reactions - Don't just bring up horrible news. Watch what they are doing and sit down with them and talk if they are acting strangely or not wanting to go to school or do other normal things.
Simply tell the truth - As kids hear news from all sorts of sources, make sure your comments are honest and direct.
Help them understand sensationalism - When it seems right, point out examples of news media trying to get attention with extreme stories
Provide the background for news - When violent news keeps showing up, take the time to talk about the events and provide thoughts on what can happen and then what will be done.
Fill in the gaps on the news - Assume they know what is going on, but help them sort through the differences in sources, and the relativity of truth.
Ask for their opinions - Get them talking by respecting their views and trading thoughts instead of lecturing them.
Add to their sources - Accept their views and help them develop critical tools to analyze what they have read or heard.
Emphasize hope - No matter how grim the topic, try to inject optimism and always let them know that you are there for them whenever, wherever.
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