How to Talk With Kids about Today's News
By Sandy Schroeder
Parents have always shielded children from shocking news, but today's instantaneous global coverage of everything from hurricanes to mass shootings is hard to avoid. Too much too soon for very young children can leave them confused and anxious, awake at night with nightmares, or withdrawn or angry in the daytime.
If you see these signs in your children, take time to see if they are exposed to too much coverage, and spend some time playing and talking with them to give them a chance to calm down and sort things out.
Here are some tips from npr.org. about talking to kids about today's volatile news.
Don't dwell on the news - If you think they have picked up on a school shooting or terrorist attack, you can ask them what they have heard. They may have a garbled version or be worried about what it means to them and their family.
Avoid discussions of horrendous events - Wait until younger children are in bed before discussing extreme events. Your tone of voice will tell them it is severe, but they will not understand what it really means and simply be worried about what it could mean to them.
Simplify the news - Scale back the news and explain what has happened in terms of familiar references and avoid over explaining.
Plan outings and diversions - Take the opportunity to plan special family trips to the park or the beach on the weekends.
Assure them they are safe - When they are settling down for story time at night, let them know they and their family are safe.
Help them know what is real - Young children often mix fantasy and reality together. Talk with them in simple terms about what is going on, and make sure they have not mixed in their own scary interpretations.
Let them take the lead - Keep an eye on their actions and make time to talk with them about current events. If they are acting out, regressing, or behaving in other unusual ways, spend more time with them to sort through everything.
Be direct and honest - Kids will hear about crime, violence and war from friends, TV, movies or social media. Spend time on the weekends or after dinner talking with them to pick up on what they have heard, and straighten out the facts if needed.
Keep an eye on them - If they are still sleeping poorly, lashing out, eating more or less, or withdrawing, you may want to consider seeing a therapist to work through the issues.
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