As parents, it’s only natural to avoid any sort of dialogue around difficult subjects with our children in order to protect them. Especially if we don’t always know, as adults, how to process hard-hitting information. We want to focus on the positives and shield our little ones from anything that isn’t entirely innocent, optimistic and full of wide-eyed joy.
But it’s important to have conversations with your children around topics that are prevalent in the world because they may already be aware, to an extent, of a number of goings on. They may already be quietly fretting about what it all means exactly. And if not, they could end up hearing about potentially worrying current affairs from school peers and need a little bit of reassuring from you. We’re sharing a few helpful pointers to make talking to your kids about real world events as stress-free as possible.
Choose a comfortable setting to strike up a conversation
A comfortable setting is key when approaching your children about a subject you feel is serious and requires a little more attention than they’re usually willing to grant you! When discussing the crisis or event, be cheerful and relaxed, letting them know that it’s an open and honest conversation and that there’s no right or wrong way to feel about it. Try talking to them during their morning walk to school or while watching some evening television. Perhaps you could set aside a little time at the weekend to do something you both enjoy together like going to the cinema, baking or heading into town for lunch.
“Be cheerful and relaxed,
letting them know that it’s
an open and honest
They may already be aware of more than you think
Don’t underestimate how much they already know. Children are given access to a wealth of information through a seemingly infinite amount of media outlets publishing information daily – sometimes a jumbled mass of unverified information made up of partisan agendas. They are exposed to the colourful world of social media which enhances their experiences dramatically and so they are likely to have already heard about upsetting events being widely broadcast.
Be clear, direct and factual
Children aren’t always able to read between the lines so using very clear language that cannot be misinterpreted is fundamental when having these types of conversations. State the facts and don’t shy away from them; perhaps you could be less specific if you felt it unnecessary to delve into the details but, overall, speaking confidently and clearly with – depending on your child’s disposition – an optimistic and reassuring tone is key, here.
Encourage them to ask questions and apply critical thinking
Recent research suggests that young students well-versed in the world of technology aren’t always able to discern the political bias of social messages, and often unknowingly subscribe to false information in the form of ‘fake news’. As parents, we can support our children by encouraging them to apply critical thinking skills in order to make informed, evidence-based opinions. Let them ask as many questions as possible, listen to what they have to say and share in their curiosity, gently guiding them to reach their own conclusions.
Validate your child’s feelings
It is perfectly normal for children to feel an assortment of emotions – sometimes confusing and often overwhelming – in response to unsettling topics on the news. Be sure to validate their feelings by letting them know that it’s completely OK to feel this way and that you do too. Instilling a sense of comfort and security into them by communicating understanding and acceptance can often help you to achieve better conversational outcomes. Positive language can sound something like “I hear you,” “I understand,” or “It makes sense that..”
It’s also OK to reassure your children with optimistic and hopeful language, as long as you are not telling them what they want to hear and making promises that cannot be kept.
“Let them ask as many
questions as possible,
listen to what they have to say
and share in their curiosity.”
Consider taking action as a family activity
- Read diverse books together
- Write letters to government officials
- Help them to assist in charitable efforts locally or at school; perhaps by starting a club to raise awareness around important topics. By doing this, they could be giving other young people a platform to express their own views and have them heard.
This is just a handful of examples that could lead to positive change for both your family and the world, and it also shows your child that positive contributions can be made to help people during these difficult times!