An Open Letter to MN Parents Trying to Explain Scary News to Kids
Dear Minnesota Parents,
Yesterday I was glued to my Facebook page because of all of the breaking news that was happening in Washington D.C.
Many of my friends across the board politically were on social media asking the same question...'how do we talk to our kids about what's going on in the world?'
For children, it can be pretty scary to turn on the tv or scroll through social media and see scary pictures, frightening headlines, etc. So, what can parents do? How do you even remotely go about talking to your kids about things you may not even understand yourself?
These are questions I've wrestled with because I've got a three-year-old son who isn't old enough to know what's going on in the world right now--luckily. But, I do worry about that inevitable day when he's old enough to ask questions. What am I going to say or do?
I actually found a great article online from NPR which talks about how you should approach any sort of breaking new story with your child. This doesn't just apply to yesterday's news. It's a great strategy for any sort of heavy topic in the media.
First, you should know that for the most part you can be the gatekeeper for your children with things like social media, TV, etc. And, you should impose limits. When there are big breaking news stories that might be hard for your kids to process, turn their attention to something else, turn off the tv and get them off social media if that's possible.
For older kids, this might not be possible. They might be hearing all kinds of things from their friends, memes on the internet, etc. So, before you tell them what's going on in the world, just straight up ask them about what they already know...or what they've heard. This will give you a great place to start. Asking them about what they've heard allows you to correct any misinformation.
Your job is to calm their fears. Reassure them that they're safe and explain the facts about what's going on. Don't try to vilify anyone. Some people might struggle with this one. But, it's important because if you label people as 'bad' you might actually make your kids feel more worried and scared. According to NPR, "It's important to convey that, overall, such events are incredibly rare...that's why it's news."
And, lastly, find ways to stay positive. Maybe for you that looks like finding the heroes of the story and focus on them. Or, perhaps you find ways to be the hero. You can find ways to make a positive impact with your kid together.
One of my Facebook friends created a video with her daughter yesterday as a way to spread positivity. They took a minute to pray for family and friends on Facebook live. I thought it was a really neat way to channel fears, uncertainties, anxiety, etc. into positive actions.
The article I found was really helpful. You can find the full text to the NPR story here.