Violence, Tragedy: How to Talk to Kids About Troubling World Events
The weekend killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seems to be just the latest in a string of sad items hitting the airwaves and news feeds of America. But for parents with young children, who may see reports of these events but not be fully able to grasp their meaning, these hard-to-explain stories present another problem entirely.
Dr. Steven Tobias, psychologist and director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, offers a few suggestions to help parents deal with such complicated news:
If possible, monitor your children's exposure to news reports.
With the constant crush of social media and the ability to receive news on multiple easy-to-use devices, kids now have much more information at their fingertips than previous generations.
"In the past, I think parents both had more control over what their kids were exposed to, as well as they knew what their kids were exposed to," Tobias said.
Find out exactly what your children know about these current events.
By doing this, parents have an opportunity to correct any misinformation the children may have picked up. That means, however, that the parents themselves need to be well-educated — even if they themselves feel unsure about what is going on in the world.
"If the parent can be OK about it, they're going to be in a much better situation to really reassure their child and empathize with their child, and make it about the child and their feelings," Tobias said.
In this step, it is also important for parents to emphasize that the kids themselves will likely not be put in direct danger because of what they hear about in the news.
"Kids tend to be egocentric," Tobias said. "The younger the child, the more egocentric they are, the more they see it in terms of themselves and their own lives."
We want to know: What are your tips for talking to children about troubling events? Tweet us at @wpg1450 or leave a comment below.
Talk with your children about their feelings; empathize and validate them.
Tobias said parents need to provide emotional support in these situations, and know their kids' tendencies. Some will be able to put the news in perspective, while others may be more sensitive to it, especially if they have been exposed to violence or have lost a loved one.
And most of all, according to Tobias, parents need to relieve their children of anxiety, rather than add to it.