Keeping your children informed of current events can be a tricky proposition, especially when so much of the news now concerns issues and events too big and scary for kids. At first glance, it might seem like the only way to deal with the news is to shut it out entirely.
While deciding what's appropriate for your children to see and know is your own decision, it's important to remember that all news isn't bad news. The media highlights the unusual, and what often makes an event unusual (in the eyes of the media, anyway) is that it involves violence, crime, or tragedy.
On top of that, the demands of our most popular news medium, television, require that these unusual stories be told very quickly. According to Children Now, a nonprofit children's advocacy group, the average television news story is told in just two minutes.
As a result, it's easy for children to have a distorted, terrifying view of the world around them. They need your help to put things into their proper context and to reassure them.
What can you to do to help your kids make sense of it all?
- The most important thing you can do is to watch or read about the news with your child. Not only can you monitor what your child is exposed to, but you can also use it as a springboard for a meaningful discussion afterwards.
- When you talk to your kids about the news, leave room for their thoughts— and especially their fears. Psychologists believe that for children between six and ten years old, the kidnappings and murders they hear about on the news are the equivalent of the monsters under the bed that haunted them in their earlier years. It's still important that kids be reassured that they're protected from harm.
- When kids ask questions about current events, tell them as much as you think they can understand. Just as you wouldn't try to explain light refraction to a six-year-old who asks why the sky is blue, trying to explain the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their entirety will be just as overwhelming.
- Consider learning about current events from more than just the nightly news. Newspapers, especially local ones, can provide a more balanced perspective on the world. Too often, the news only concerns faraway events— it's good to learn about what's going on in your local community.
The world can be a very scary place, and so can the news. But with the right guidance, learning about current events can encourage kids to learn more about the world around them— and ultimately, become more involved in it.
For more tips on keeping up with current events, try this link:
- A more general guide on talking to your kids about the news can be found at Kidshealth.org.