Discussing bad news with kids
Should you talk to your kids about the awful things that happen on the news?

We published this column in 2013 and it's still as relevant today as two years ago:

I’m trying, really. I’m really trying hard not to read the news or give my child a life that’s free of bad news. But, it cannot be ignored any longer.

Growing up, my parents were addicted to the news. Back then it was the nightly news bulletins. Nowadays, I have 24-hour news channels to contend with, the internet and an always-on access point to the world beyond our front door.

And, I have to. I need to keep informed about the world around us, because one day – I’ll need to explain it to my kid. One of the best ways for me to do that is to watch the news with her. At school, they regularly discuss current affairs and talk about how what happens “out there” has an effect on their lives. I’m glad for this sense of interaction – making news relevant to a child’s life helps them to understand the why and how of the way the world works.

The only thing is – the news isn’t always pretty. I can’t look forward to a good evening news bulletin that’ll show world peace, or people uniting to celebrate puppies or suchlike, or even highlight how someone cured cancer, forever.

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I can’t show her the news that I want to – but I can show her the news that’s relevant. I’m selective, and through that, I make sure that there’s no way she reads or hears about news that isn’t somehow relevant to her life. She cares, quite deeply about the rhino crisis, and wildlife, so I’ll often make sure she is up to date on any newsworthy story related to animals.

But then, there are the big events. The global shakes and the scary disasters – they’re relevant because they change our world. Sometimes they are all too awful for even I to bear. And then I’m stuck – I want my child to grow up informed, but not harmed by current affairs. I want her to have a good grasp on the world around us, but not live in fear of it.

It’s for that reason that I don’t tell her about gory situations, or I skip past the details where the scary parts lie. I always try to juxtapose awful news with uplifting stories. So, yes, when a natural disaster occurs, I am the one who is desperately trying to find out how the pets were rescued, and reunited with their families. I always make an effort to focus on overcoming a disaster, rather than the minutiae of the disaster.

Also read: Kids react to European crisis

Lastly, and this is what I find has been most crucial – always tell the truth. That doesn’t mean I need to include all the information available to us relating to a news story, but it does mean I can communicate with my kid about the news, openly. Sometimes, this means stripping a situation down to its bare facts, and sometimes it means making sure I can find a positive outcome to a situation. Either way – the truth needs to always shine.

Do you talk to your kids about the awful things that happen on the news? Send your feedback to chatback@parent24.com.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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