When it comes to the “big talks” with our kids, most of the time, we get to plan and prepare ahead of time. But when something unexpected and upsetting happens in the news - like a mass shooting, a devastating hurricane, or a mob breaking into the Capitol Building, we’re caught off guard. And as we’re trying to process what’s happening ourselves, our kids are too, and they need our help. Here are some ways to guide them through.
- Check in with them- Chances are, when something crazy happens in the news, your kids will hear about it - either at home or from a classmate. There’s no need to scare young children by telling them about it, but if you think they’ve picked up on something, talk to them about what they’ve seen or heard, ask how they’re feeling and answer any questions they have in a calm, age-appropriate way. With teens, it’s especially important to talk about what they’ve seen so you can correct any misinformation and provide context, as well as guide them to other sources to help them process what’s happened.
- Be a healthy example- When political unrest, violent crimes and natural disasters happen, it’s tempting to turn on the news and keep it on nonstop. But when a story is still unfolding, it’s best to limit kids’ exposure and turn it off to take a break. Your kids will be watching how you react to the news and how you cope, so that’s the time to stay calm and know when enough is enough.
- Focus on the positive- When troubling and stressful news is unfolding, it can be tough to find the positives, but they are there. Share the inspiring speeches from leaders with your kids and the stories about communities helping each other and anything that highlights unity and perseverance in the aftermath of upsetting news.