I’ve had links to the news for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a household where we watched the news every night and quite often we had a newspaper floating around as well. Although back then I was more interested in the printed TV guide and what was happening in all my favourite shows! Yet I was still aware things were happening in the world. I remember hearing about famous people dying, war erupting in other countries and bad accidents taking lives. While the news can be a scary thing, it’s also very much an important part of our lives..
There seems to be a belief in our culture that the innocence of childhood is sacred and must be preserved at all costs. But these children are likely to grow into adults who have little to no idea about some of the things happening in the world. Just because they hear about murder, violence, war, death, pain and everything shocking, doesn’t necessarily mean they will head down that path themselves.
I’ve never been one to shy away from being honest with my kids. Yes, I do tell them little white lies about certain topics, but when it comes to chatting about what’s happening in the news, I’ll have a conversation with them about it. The Israel-Hamas war is a prime example of a big thing happening in the world and yes, my girls (now 10 and eight) have asked questions about what it is and why it’s taking place. Another big news item has been the bushfires kicking in across the country and the potential fear of whether we could be in the firing line. We chat about topics on a level that they understand, but sometimes the questions that follow can be even trickier to answer!
It does come down to personal preference what you choose to talk to your kids about and exactly how much detail you give them. But there are times they can access the information themselves, whether we can control it or not. If you are a regular watcher of the news, you’ll likely notice a lot of it isn’t ‘good’ news. Terrorism, natural disasters, violent crime and famine – the news is often a cocktail of negativity that can worry young minds. But in a digital world that is constantly evolving, news is everywhere. So how can you help children understand the news and keep it in perspective for them?
Ask your kids questions to see if they know about a current event. For school-age kids and teens, you can ask what they have heard at school or on social media.
Factor in your child’s age and their development or ability to understand what is going on.
Depending on the topic, of course, answer questions as honestly as you can, but keep it brief when necessary too. Remember it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer, but you’ll try to find out.
If your child doesn't seem interested in an event or doesn't want to talk about it, don’t push the issue.
Listen carefully. When kids hear about an upsetting event they may worry about it happening to them. Focus on what your kids ask so you can help them cope with their fears.
Put news stories in context. Broaden the discussion from a specific news item about a difficult event to a larger conversation.
Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it's inappropriate for your child.