How To Explain News Coverage To Your Children

Parents must walk a delicate line between helping kids comprehend newsmaking events and common sense approaches to the safety of youngsters.

The United States suffered 204 mass shootings in the first 204 days of 2015, according to disturbing statistics reported by the Huffington Post. Parents can add the murder of two journalists on live television in southwestern Virginia to the list of news stories that adults must explain to children in a way that doesn’t alarm them or make them afraid for their safety. Parents must walk a delicate line between helping kids comprehend newsmaking events and common sense approaches to the safety of youngsters.

Explore Your Feelings

Explore the feelings you may feel after hearing of such events on television. Naturally, you might feel terror about the prospects of such a terrible tragedy occurring to someone you know. Hearing of mass killings bring up fears for the safety of you and your loved ones.

After you get over the shock and horror of the events, your heart may feel sad for the victims and for the families of those killed. Gauge your own emotions and deal with them away from your kids until you have time to sort them out, a report published by the South Orangetown Central School District suggested. Talk to another adult before you talk to your children. Breathe deeply to try to relax, use tapping points along your hands or neck to relieve stress through acupressure points, or shake out tension through your hands. Kids can pick up on your emotions and become upset simply because you are worried, angry, or sad yourself.

Reassure Kids

The first thing you should do is reassure your children that they are in no danger. These acts of violence, although big news on television, do not happen to everyone. The United States has more than 300 million people! Although the murders are horrifying, your kids are generally safe from such acts. Tell your youngsters that their teachers can protect them at school when they are not near mommy or daddy, suggested Diane Levin in an article on KidsGrowth.

Let your children know that they can come to you, as a parent, with any issues they may have with something they hear at school or see on the news. Hug it out, tell your youngsters a happy bedtime story, and show them that they mean the world to you and you’ll do everything to protect them.

Age Appropriateness

Use age-appropriate ways to deal with your children’s assessment of what happened, parenting editor Caroline Knorr suggests (from Common Sense Media). For kids age 7 and younger, try to keep the television news off. Turn off broadcast radio stations at the top and bottom of every hour so your youngsters don’t hear regular news reports. Young kids may sensationalize headlines in their own imaginations, and this could lead to bad dreams, nightmares, anxiety, and unexplained fears.

Consider the maturity and intellectual development of children ages 8 to 12. Many youngsters see morality as black-and-white, right versus wrong, and good and evil. Kids at this age may see similarities between their own lives and those of the victims, such as names of people, the type of street where the murder occurred, or a red car that looks like yours on the images of the scene. These factors may make your children even more fearful. You may have to explain concepts such as civil unrest, racial tension, upset coworkers, and religious strife as best as possible so your kids have correct information about why things happen.

Check in with your teenagers and ask them how they feel about the event. Engage your teenager with frank discussions about their point of view. Encourage them to talk about how they think and feel.

Where Kids Get Information

The age of your children may also determine where they receive information about shootings such as the one in Virginia. Younger children may hear the news through their peers. Older kids who use computers, tablet devices, and cellphones may get news by searching the Internet. Make sure you filter out rumors and speculation as compared to facts about the tragedies as you converse with your children.

The most important thing to do is explain to your children that they are generally safe, but that the world can be a complicated, chaotic place. Younger kids may just need reassurance, and you might slip in a few safety rules if you feel that type of information is appropriate. Give hope to your kids daily and tell them how much you love them, as your comfort represents the safest thing for your children to receive.