As a parent, one of your main goals is to try to protect your kids from all of the bad things that happen in the world. This may feel hard to do with the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and other tragedies playing out in the media. It can be difficult to find the balance between staying up-to-date on the news, and making sure that home and school still feel like a safe place. It is natural for your kids to ask you questions about what is going on in the news, and how it impacts their lives, especially when it comes to their school.
Having these conversations in an open way can help your children feel safer and more secure. It shows your kids that you are available for difficult conversations and that you are there to support them.
Here are some ways to talk to your young kids about difficult things they see in the news:
- Consider your kids’ temperament and maturity. It is important to give your young kids enough information so they feel safe, but not too much to where they feel overwhelmed. Start the conversation by asking them what they have heard at school and what questions they have. This allows you to gauge how much they need to hear and what is concerning them most. Listen for any underlying fears that you can address to avoid any symptoms of stress or worry in the future.
- Be reassuring and remain calm. Your children will look to you for cues about how to react. Try to set aside some time for you to think through how you are feeling before talking with them, to make sure the focus of the conversation is on their emotional response. Reassure them of all the different measures in place that keep them safe, like doing drills at school, locking the doors at night, having helpful emergency responders, etc. Focusing the conversation on what keeps them safe will help reassure young kids.
- Keep home a safe place. Young kids will be most concerned about how what is going on in the news impacts them. Keeping to the same routine as much as possible will help address their concerns of change or uncertainty about the future. Limit their exposure to the news on TV, and on other electronics, to make sure that they are only hearing age-appropriate news. For young kids who are showing symptoms of anxiety after the news, try increasing family bonding activities and time together. It is also a great opportunity to teach young kids compassion and community support. Help a neighbor in need, volunteer at a charity, or find a cause that is close to your family’s heart.
Laura Lebovitz, LMFT