Explaining Current Events to Kids
It has been over a week since the violent breach at the Capital in Washington DC. Children and adults alike are processing this traumatic event in our nation’s history. Most adults are struggling to understand the events last week and deal with their own emotions. An added burden we have as parents, caregivers or educators is how to explain this to children. Young children might not fully understand what is going on, but they know when something is confusing, and this can cause them to develop feelings of unease or anxiety.
Over the last year, we have had to explain why kids cannot attend school in person, cannot see grandparents and friends, racial injustice and now, we are left to explain another tragedy.
Throughout the chaos, a few of the most important things to remember:
- Try to process your emotions before speaking with your children.
- Adults need to remember how their reactions and emotions impact children.
- Remind kids you are there for them and open to questions.
- Never brush their feelings aside or tell children not to be scared or angry. Let them process in their own way.
We have identified suggestions based on your child’s age.
- Kids under 7:
- Kids at this age are not likely to be watching the news other than what they see when you watch, keep in mind where you child is when you turn the news on.
- If children do see the news, they might not understand what is going on. Monitor your own reactions as a parent because your child absorbs your stress and emotion.
- Stress that your family is safe: although the world is unsettled, remind your children you are there to keep them safe.
- Never belittle your children’s fears but offer distractions with cheery family time.
- Consider your child’s maturity before talking.
- Tell your kids you are open to questions and conversations. At this age, children are starting to form opinions. This is a good time to ask them what they know before you start explaining current events. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife.
- Be careful about generalizing, since kids will take what you say to the bank.
- Try to filter exposure if you can, but talk about the news.
- Check in: ask how they are feeling.
- Allow them to form their own opinions, remind teens that not everything they see online is true.
- Explain that what they post online is public, and they should not post until they have not done research on the issue and developed a solid understanding. Teens need to be comfortable with the idea that others might publicly disagree.
- Offer your own opinions but be careful not to push it or the conversation will end quickly.
- Tell them you are available for further conversation.
- Let them express themselves and their feelings and provide them opportunities to do so.
Provide students with an opportunity to share emotions, use emoji’s, Gifs or just open the class for discussion as kids process how they feel.
- Group discussions might be hard in a virtual environment, but writing is always a good outlet.
Take the time to speak with your children and remind them you are there for them. Be patient with them as they process their emotions and be patient with yourself. This is a scary time, and we need to give ourselves time to heal.