How to Talk to Your Kids About the News

By Mindi Bullick

Ask open-ended questions. You might start a discussion by simply asking, what have you heard about Hurricane Harvey? Or what did you see on the T.V. that bothered you? Little ones have a hard time separating fact from fiction. They may hear accounts at school that are distorted or just plain false. You can provide an honest but concise description of the facts and then ask your child how the event makes him feel. If he admits to being scared, help him see that is a natural reaction. Tell him what you do to cope with distressing feelings.

Help your child feel safe. Violent images can be terrifying to little ones. (In fact, experts suggest keeping the TV news off, especially around kids under age 7.) If your child hasn’t been exposed to violent current events, there is no need to bring them up. If she has seen something that disturbs her, show her concrete evidence that she is safe in your home. If a hurricane is happening far away, show that on a map. If she is concerned about a burglary, show her how you lock the doors each night before going to bed. Remember, too, that distraction is your ally. Once you have talked things over, snuggle up and watch a silly movie or have a bowl of ice cream.

Keep it age-appropriate. A preschooler will have a difficult time learning anything constructive from the events of September 11th, but you might have a great discussion with a 12-year-old about the bravery of the first responders and why it’s important to protect freedom. Even for older children, steer away from disturbing images or sensationalized coverage, which can be unnerving for anyone.

Do something about it. Teach your kids that even though scary things happen, your family is not powerless. Create a family action plan so everyone knows what to do in the event of a natural disaster. You might also work together to help those in need; gathering supplies or sending food to victims of a hurricane or flood.

Sometimes you can keep little ones blissfully ignorant of what’s on the news, but often you can’t. If you talk with your kids, on their level, about disturbing current events, you have more control over how they receive and digest the information. You can help them feel safe and empower them to handle the content in a constructive way.   

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