How Do You Talk To Your Children About The News?

9 January 2015

Talking To Kids About The News

Parenting is never easy, but these seem like especially difficult days in which to tackle such a challenging but privileged task.

Even if your children are too little to take in what’s happening in the world right now, most parents at some point start to wonder about how to talk to kids about the news.

CBeebies coming to an end at 6pm might be the closest your child has come to dealing with difficult circumstances right now - and Lord knows there’s something incredibly soothing about watching mind-numbing telly with a little one where nothing bad happens - but at some stage they’ll hear a news headline on the radio or pick up something from the paper stand at the shops, and it all begins.

How do you talk to your child about the bad things that happen in the world? How do you explain incidents marked by violence, war or terror, without terrifying them?

And if you take the arguably more appealing approach of trying to shield them from the harsh realities of the world, don’t you risk wrapping them up in cotton wool? That seems destined to end badly, no matter how good your intentions.

Because part of a parent’s task is to raise their child to understand that bad things do happen in the world - we can’t pretend that’s not the case, and it’s our responsibility to equip our kids for adulthood, and to bring our babies up to become people who could help to change the world for the better.

But I know from first-hand experience - damn the radio for springing news headlines on me when I wasn’t quick enough to change the dial - that it feels like all innocence is lost the first time your child asks a question like ‘What’s a terrorist, Mummy?’ or ‘Why do people kill each other?’

I don’t have any answers - I’m muddling through this myself, and haven’t yet sussed how to answer the Santa question, never mind the more challenging things my kids have started asking about terror and tragedy in the world.

But I do know this: it’s normal to feel utterly helpless in the face of great suffering or tragedy in the news, and to wonder what kind of world we’ve brought our children into. But in the midst of that it’s also important to remember that parenting is an opportunity to rewrite history; we have the chance to mould young minds in such a way that future generations might get right the things that our own has managed to mess up.

So do be moved by world events, but don’t be so discouraged that you forget the power that you have as a parent. It’s ok to feel frightened at the thought of our kids growing up in a world that sometimes seems out of control and maybe even beyond repair, but don't forget that the chance to shape a heart and life must surely be one of the greatest weapons the world has ever known.

Use it wisely.

Image credit: ten Brink

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