How do talk to our kids about the news
August 5, 2015  |  Written by M. Rodrigo Brao

There´s not much we can do to avoid it. Kids today witness images of natural disasters and international conflicts on TV screens or computers. If they´re very young, we can try toning it down but as they grow older, it´s best not to keep them isolated but rather have them understand what is going on in the world. So what do we do when our kids watch tragic news reports on TV? Experts Eric Rossen, director of the National Association of School Psychologists and Margret Nickels, director of the Erikson Institute Center for Children and Families have offered their advice on the subject.

Explain without too many details

If your children ask you what you´re watching, try to explain the basic concept but don’t go into details. For example, if the images are of a wounded soldier coming home from a war, you can tell your kids that he´s a soldier and they´re taking him to hospital to get better. No need to explain what countries were involved or the reasons behind the conflict.

Help them situate it on a map “Before adolescence, children think that what they see, is happening right around the corner,” says Margret Nickels. If they see an image of an airplane up in flames or soldiers fighting, they don´t think it´s happening so far away. Use a map or a globe to give them more perspective.

Ask them questions

Your children, like most, will be shocked upon watching a violent image and that could make them “glued to the TV.” When this happens its best to encourage them to speak and talk about it. Ask questions about what they are watching and how that makes them feel. If you get them to talk, they´ll be able to solve any doubts or let go of the fears they might have.

Search for information together

If your kids are a bit older, they´ll probably search for more information when witnessing a tragic event. Learning about hurricanes or earthquakes, for example, is a great way to deal with and understand what they´ve seen. Together, you can search online or look at maps to see where other natural disasters have occurred.


Keep Calm

Keep in mind that go them, you are their protector. So keep calm. If your kids get scared, speak slowly and make sure they know that their family is safe. “Those images of the war are horrible but don´t worry. There is no war here at home.”

Playing vs. Fear

“Often times, children overcome their fears and worries by playing,” says Nickels. If they see a fireman, perhaps they´ll imitate him and pretend he is fighting a fire or using a helicopter to rescue people form a tsunami. Unless they get aggressive, it´s all right for them to role-play. It´s their way of processing and understanding the world they live in.

Bring out the positive

After certain events, such as a terrorist attack, we often speak to our kids form a negative point of view saying things like: “Those bad people attacked us”. Rossen, however, suggests we talk from a positive point of view. How? Talking about the people and organizations that help the wounded.

Make them participate in the solution

Whether it’s a local, national or international situation, ask your children if they´d like to help. Search for ways to donate money, time or even read about it to become aware of the conflict or problem. By giving back and helping, you´ll be teaching them about taking care of others.

 Photo Credits: Shutterstock


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