There are a lot of current events going on in our world that can be scary for kids to hear. You might wonder how to talk to your kids about these current events.
One thing to understand is that your children are going to hear about these events one way or another.
Children can learn about things from their peers, social media, or overhearing adult conversations.
The world is out there and we can not shield them from the things that go on around them. All we can really do is manage how they hear the information.
The goal of our messages should be to lessen the amount of fear they feel. Children can become quite fearful when there are things happening beyond their control.
This fear often comes from a place of wondering who will take care of them if something happens to their parents.
Keeping these tips at the forefront of your mind will help make these conversations with your kids a little easier on both of you.
“At every step, the child should be allowed to meet the real experience of life; the thorns should never be plucked from his roses.” — Ellen Key
Ask your child what they know about current events
You can ask older children and teens what they may have heard about a specific event. Ask them whether they heard this from fellow students, social media, or the news.
You can also take time to explain the difference between reputable sources, authentic research, and how people might have different opinions.
Stick to the facts and let them ask questions they have about what they think they know. Keep in mind that most children can distinguish between fantasy and actual facts around 7-8. If they are younger than that, they might not be able to tell the difference.
If your child knows nothing and doesn’t show much interest, then you may not need to elaborate. Follow their lead and let that be the guiding point of your conversation.
Additional reading: How to Teach Your Kids Responsibility
Talking to your children can be as simple as answering their questions
You always want to answer questions your child has as honestly, and briefly, as possible. Telling your kids the truth is essential, but you may be able to leave out many of the scarier details.
If they haven’t considered a potential outcome, then you don’t have to offer it to them. Keep your answers relevant to how interested they are in the topic.
Our job as parents is to help keep our kids calm and assuage their fears. We do this by remaining calm and answering their questions in a way that is forthright but focuses on what they ask. In order to know what they are afraid of you, listen carefully.
This is where the active listening skill “listen to understand” comes in handy. Many of us “listen to respond,” but with fearful kids, it is much better to understand where their fear comes from. Try not to plan your response before your child is done talking. Hear them out first.
Part of being honest is knowing when you don’t know an answer. Most of us are not experts in the areas of things that have been happening lately, and it is ok to tell your child that you don’t know or understand something and will have to research something before you get back to them.
It is also ok to ask a professional to help you better understand something so you can respond to your child at a later date. If your child is old enough, you can research things together.
Give your children some control in the conversation
Kids don’t have control over many aspects of their lives. They feel less in control hearing about current events because there is little they can do.
Encouraging your child to talk about the event and their feelings can give them a sense of control in a tough situation.
When you are talking about these things, make sure to stress how, while news stories should be accurate and reliable, that there are such things as ratings and attracting viewers. They need to learn to look beyond the headline, read the article, and follow up.
They should also look at these stories from a sense of how they can be prepared and not panic. What steps can they take to make sure they have done everything they could to prepare?
For example, if there is a storm coming, do they know the evacuation plan should one be needed? Is the house stocked up on water, flashlights, and batteries?
Showing kids how to prepare for things versus just panicking is a great teachable moment that can come from talking with your kids about current events.
Another opportunity that can happen when we talk to kids about current events is letting them come up with ways they can help. Is there an elderly neighbor who can’t get to the store for essentials? Maybe your teen can go for them?
Focus on positive outcomes and opportunities by being supportive
If the current event that is upsetting your child can be changed, and they feel strongly about it, then help your child find something they can do.
Can they join in a peaceful protest? Is there a way they can help a group or a cause? Can they do something at a school level? It doesn’t have to be big, it can be something small.
Help them discover the power of their words and actions. Show them how this can be an opportunity for them to make a difference in the world. When we show our kids how they can contribute, we empower them to be better people and move forward.
Remember to support your kids however they need. That could be something as simple as giving them a hug or helping them reach out to community members about a cause.
Again, this will depend on your child’s interest in the current event, but your support and encouragement will mean the world to them.
“Kids deserve the right to think that they can change the world.” — Lois Lowry
Why you should have these hard conversations with your kids about current events
You might think it would just be easier to skip these conversations and not have to do so much work. And you would be right… it would be easier, but it is important that kids understand what is happening in the world.
The world is more connected than it has ever been and current events, whether they happen in your hometown or somewhere else, should be taught. It will help your students be better global (and domestic) citizens.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” This includes our children who are actively learning developmental and educational skills.
Speaking with your kids about current events also helps build their vocabulary and critical thinking skills. It also gives them a chance to flex their own listening skills. Overall, it is a great way for them to grow.
Current events can be scary for everyone
It is ok if current events scare you, too! Depending on the event, you might also feel out of control and fearful. You can use some of this advice for talking to yourself, too.
If you find yourself panicking, ask how you can prepare. If you feel you can’t do anything, see who can help. That person might be your child, or someone else.
Children mirror our behavior, and that holds true in these situations, too. They will look to you for cues. Hopefully, these tips will help you have a calm and collected conversation about current events.
If you have any other helpful tips or questions about speaking to your child about current events, let us know in the comment section below.