Address any concerns, talk about the news in an age-appropriate way, and check in regularly.
Many children have questions about what is happening in the world. They may feel afraid, upset, confused, and even guilty. Helping them talk about what they see or hear and how they take in information can help them to process and understand it.
Know that it is normal for you to feel apprehensive about talking about difficult things with your child. But, if you can talk to your child in a way that they will understand and make sure they know it’s okay to talk about difficult things, they will learn that there is nothing shameful or frightening about talking about real events. You will learn how your child best processes information and how they communicate this to you. The goal of communication with a child of any age is to create an open channel and to give them space to tell you how they feel so that you can help them build coping skills.
Before you open any conversation with your child, first take note of how you are feeling. Make sure that you are in a state to discuss the news with them (For ideas, please see our previous post on coping with recent events.). Notice your reactions to the news and ask yourself if you can manage your feelings enough to talk to your child. Stay current on the news and ensure that you can guide your child toward more information if they ask for it.
Younger children can be confused by social media stories, images, videos, or other information that can be frightening to them. They may not understand the context. It is important to ensure that you are monitoring the information that they receive. You may keep the news off during hours when your child is awake or silence notifications or alerts on your phone.
Older children and pre-teens are likely to get information from friends as well as social media and the news. You cannot control all the information they take in, but you can talk to them about what they have heard and help them to make sense of it. It is most helpful to make sure they know that you are available to talk and to answer questions they may have.
Teens likely have many sources of information and are discussing topics with their friends. Be available and talk about their information sources, what they have seen/heard, and how they are interpreting it. You may wish to share your news sources and understanding of what is going on with them and engage in discussion. It is important to make sure that they feel heard and that you are open to hearing their perspective.
Younger children may be worried about something bad happening. Let them know that you are doing your best to keep them safe. Play and distraction can help.
Older children and pre-teens may also need extra support to feel safe. Work together to find coping and relaxation strategies that help your child.
Teens may feel connected to teens all over the world and what they are going through. Engage with them about their fears, set limits around social media and news engagement, and keep conversations open about how to keep safe at home and in the community.
Check in regularly.
For children of all ages, set a dedicated time to talk and check in.
For younger children, this may be setting a time for unstructured play. You may also use a picture chart to ask them how they are feeling each day. Monitoring sleep, eating, and their daily habits is also important.
For older children and pre-teens, use a regular time to check in at the beginning and end of the day. You may still use picture charts for them to express how they feel but also ask them if they have any questions for you. Make sure they know that they can talk to you if their feelings change.
For teens, you might choose a quick check in such as a text or a brief chat at dinner. Making yourself available for conversation is critical to ensure that your child will reach out if needed. Finding a way that works for your teen while not intruding on their life is important.
By using age-appropriate strategies to understand and talk to your children about the news, you can help them process how they feel. It could help you and your children also find ways that you can work through tough feelings together, now and in the future.
Stay safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls.