How to Talk to Your Children about the News

November 1st, 2016 by

In today’s digital world, it is becoming increasingly harder to minimize the stream of information to children. There’s no shortage of ways for them to hear about current events, often leading to misinformation, confusion, and details that might not be age-appropriate. In discussing the news with your children, there is no script to follow but there are effective strategies to help steer the conversation.

Depending on your child’s age, he or she might read the news on their phone, computer, or hear things from their peers at school or on the playground. Most children, even ones as young as 4-years-old, will likely hear about current events on their own before the subject is brought up by their parents. After being exposed to distressing news, a child may worry that the incident could happen to themselves or a loved one. By taking a proactive stance on the report first, adults can alleviate some of that worry for a child. The news can be a difficult road to navigate, but parents can’t and shouldn’t shelter children since it is always better to hear the information from a trustworthy source. It’s important to not keep children in the dark but also not provide any more information than necessary.

Parents should consider their own reactions to the event first and take into account the child’s maturity level, temperament, and developmental abilities. Then, adults can begin the conversation by asking his or her child what they have heard and if there are any questions. Don’t assume that you know how your child is feeling. Children will take cues from their mother or father on how to behave so it’s important to maintain a steady and calm demeanor. In the same regard, you should guide the conversation based on the child’s response by encouraging him or her to talk freely and to ask open-ended questions. If he or she begins to display signs of discomfort or agitation during the discussion, it’s important to not press the issue and instead, return to it at a later time. Make your child feel at ease by letting them know that he or she can come to you with additional questions or if they need a safe space to express their emotions. Adults can also use events as a teaching moment by emphasizing the positives of a particular situation or suggesting small acts of kindness. Not only does this help channel their worry into productivity, it establishes a sense of empathy in children.

After the conversation, parents should try their best to minimize their child’s access to the influx of media. News channels often replay event coverage, which younger children can misinterpret as a daily occurrence rather than a recap of what had transpired. If possible, make the switch from watching the news on television to reading the newspaper together as a family. It’s a great way for kids to improve literacy skills and spend one-on-one time with a parent. Adults can accompany school-age children to the library to obtain additional research regarding the subject matter. This encourages familiarity with difficult topics. A perplexing topic for younger children is the electoral process, especially during this current election cycle. There has been a trend of parents speaking out about the potential effects of the negativity exchanged between the two candidates and how to address it with their children. One of our recommendations is that adults remain positive while carefully distinguishing between fact and fiction. Caregivers do not have to discuss the issue at length, especially with younger kids, but discuss the how’s and why’s of the electoral process. During the discussion, parents need to be careful about making sweeping generalizations about groups of people when exploring particular views or topics and provide a balanced and fair perspective since children can internalize what a parent says or does.

Establishing an open line of dialogue during a child’s early years is beneficial to his or her development, helping to foster and instill healthy coping mechanisms such as conflict resolution skills. A lack of communication can create distance, trust issues, as well as emotional and behavioral issues. Children that speak more freely about their thoughts to their parents will also possess a better rapport with them during their teenage years. At the Nanny Authority, our caregivers are well-versed in developmental milestones and are able to answer questions with meditative, considerate, and age-appropriate responses. Contact us here or at 973-466-2669 today to obtain more information.