With the continual rise of social media and 24-hour news cycles, children today are more exposed to world events than ever before. Parents, teachers, and child psychologists agree: when it comes to talking about complex issues like war, tragedies, and political turmoil, there are no easy answers. Here are several tips from experts in the education field.
1.Limit Media Coverage and Relate Age-Appropriate Information
Children younger than 5 will have a difficult time processing violent or frightening images. Try your best to keep the news distant from them and keep their routine the same. If the event directly affects them or those they know, be sure to reassure them that they are safe and there are many people working to keep them safe. Children aged 6 – 11 need basic facts and minimal exposure to media. With teens, it’s best to start by asking what they already know.
2.Let them Lead the Discussion
In 2016, KidsHealth.org asked more than 2,000 children and teens in the U.S about their opinions on the presidential election. When asked if they thought the election outcome would change their lives, 75% of children and 79% of teens answered in the affirmative. Children today are paying attention, and as parents and teachers we need to be ready to answer questions. If our children change the subject, then go with the flow and leave the topic for another time.
3.Ask Follow-Up Questions
It’s always a good idea to ask exploratory questions when your child wants to discuss politics or world events. Start simple. Ask “Do you know what a president does? Do you know where the earthquake happened? Do you know there are different types of government and different types of elections? Do you know that the war is happening far away and you are safe in our house?” Every child varies in levels of emotional vulnerability and anxiety. They might be afraid or they might just be curious. Ask as many questions as you can to determine the next steps in the conversation.
4.End on a Positive Note
Use this as an opportunity to show your kids how to voice their opinions with respect, strength, and conviction. During political discussions, talk about what each candidate is for, and why you support the candidates you do. You can also discuss various ways different countries address the same issues, like healthcare and schooling.
Shannon Brown is a head teacher at Little Genius International Kindergarten with a Master’s in Public Health. She cultivates healthy living by practicing yoga and rock climbing and has been living and teaching in HCM since 2014.