How do we talk to our kids about the raging mess that is our current world? A place where young girls are blown up at a concert, rights for women, the poor and immigrants are being stripped away by governments and elected politicians lie routinely about every damn thing under the sun. It’s dark out there, but glossing over it with our kids is not the answer.
Depending on the age of your children, these suggestions may have to be adapted, but the principles remain the same whether you have a preschooler, a tween or an almost-adult about to leave home.
How do we talk to our kids about the world? Here are my best ideas:
Evading, hiding and deflecting are strategies that don’t work. If you are anxious about the news (and if you feel chill and at ease about the world in 2017, you likely aren’t paying close enough attention), your children are, too. If you don’t talk about current events honestly with your kids, they will hear something at school or on the playground or at your in-laws’ barbecue and without some careful context provided by you, your kids are likely to feel way more upset by what they hear because it will carry the added power of secrecy with it.
It’s normal to worry about scaring them unnecessarily or getting your explanation wrong. You may do both but go ahead and talk to them anyway. Build that trust. Plant the seeds for a compassionate response. Know that scary situations are best borne together with the ones you love.
Encourage questions. Ask things like, “Why do you suppose she believes that? What do you think will happen as a result of this world event? How do you feel when we talk about this?”
Questions are a beautiful entity. They help children understand that grownups may not have all of the answers, but they are willing to ask hard questions and pool a sense of knowledge for the greater good. Questions also provide a safe route to the hidden nooks and crannies in our hearts. They help us feel less isolated and alone.
This one is tough right now, but it’s important not to leave the discussion with a bleak sense that all hope is lost. Our kids are looking to us to be their lighthouse. We cannot allow them to dash against the rocks in the dark. It’s our job to be open and candid, but also to dig deep and put an optimistic spin on even the saddest, most desperate news story.
Try something alone these lines: “I know this is scary. I feel sad and worried, too. But I know that I am strong and capable and so are you. We will always stick together and show as much love and kindness and compassion to ourselves and to others as possible, and we will be okay.”
I truly wish we had a better state of current affairs so these conversations would be easier. But every one of us must play the cards we are dealt and model this courage to our children. It’s no good denying, hiding, distracting, blaming. Like the greatest heroes in history who have inspired us, it’s time to bravely meet circumstances as they are, with our kids beside us, and change the world by changing ourselves.