How to Talk about the News with your Kids
Talking About the News
To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be honest and help kids feel safe. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in.
Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.
Older kids are less likely to accept an explanation at face value. Their budding skepticism about the news and how it’s produced and sold might mask anxieties they have about the stories it covers. If older kids are bothered about a story, help them cope with these fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.
Teens also can be encouraged to consider why a frightening or disturbing story was on the air: Was it to increase the program’s ratings because of its sensational value or because it was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a worthwhile discussion about the role and mission of the news.
Tips for Parents
Keeping an eye on kids’ TV news habits can go a long way toward monitoring the content of what they hear and see. Other tips:
- Recognize that news doesn’t have to be driven by disturbing pictures. Public TV programs, newspapers, or news magazines specifically designed for kids can be less sensational — and less upsetting — ways of getting information to children.
- Discuss current events with your child regularly. It’s important to help kids think through stories they hear about. Ask questions: What do you think about these events? How do you think these things happen? These questions can encourage conversation about non-news topics too.
- Put news stories in proper context. Showing that certain events are isolated or explaining how one event relates to another helps kids make better sense of what they hear. Broaden the discussion from a disturbing news item to a larger conversation: Use the story of a natural disaster as an opportunity to talk about philanthropy, cooperation, and the ability of people to cope with overwhelming hardship.
- Watch the news with your kids to filter inappropriate or frightening stories.
- Anticipate when guidance will be necessary and avoid shows that are too graphic and inappropriate for your child’s age or level of development.
- If you’re uncomfortable with the content of the news or if it’s inappropriate for your child’s age, turn it off.
- Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, kids may gain a sense of control and feel more secure if you help them find ways to help those affected by the tragedy or honor those who died.