6 Tips for Discussing the News With Kids
Several items popped up in my newsfeed over the last week and none of them are easy for me to process. For children who are likely to misunderstand what they read and hear, this same news is even more difficult to wade through.
Whether you’re listening to the trial of Derek Chauvin - who has been charged in the death of George Floyd - or watching the body camera footage of police threatening to execute Lt Caron Nazario in a gas station parking lot in Virginia, or witnessing the protests of yet another police-involved death - Daunte Wright was shot after being pulled over for an alleged “minor traffic violation” - in Minneapolis, you are probably struggling to process the big emotions you’re feeling. Anger, outrage, fear, dismay, hopelessness - are just some of the emotions adults may be experiencing right now. Your kids aren’t immune to these emotions either and are probably struggling with the additional problems that come with not understanding some of the phrases and images they’re hearing and seeing.
This is also true if you’re in a classroom. I’ve noticed in my own classroom this week that my students are struggling through some big emotions right now, and while they may not have the skills they need to process these emotions in a healthy way, I can attempt to guide them.
There’s little I can do to shield children from the realities of life, and even if I am successful, I will have simply succeeded in raising children who are unprepared to enter the world.
Here are some tips for discussing news events with children.
Don’t let race be a taboo topic. Refusing to talk about race, social injustice, or scary things that might happen won’t allow your children the safe space to learn to express their concerns, ask questions, and get accurate information that will help them avoid relying on stereotypes. For more reading, check out Something Happened in Our Town
Embrace and celebrate differences. At home, spend time talking about what makes your family unique and celebrate the ways that those differences are valued. Then, take some time to explore other traditions and cultures. You can make a recipe from another country, watch movies and TV shows about people from a different culture, or find a cultural heritage festival to attend. If you’re not sure how to put yourself among people who are different from you, check local houses of worship with international services and recreational centers in neighborhoods on the other side of town and sign up for some classes. It’s a good way to meet new people and find resources you may not have known existed. For more reading, check out We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know.
Don’t allow teasing about differences of identity. For more reading, check out Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race
Participate in acts of kindness and actively challenge injustice. Even if all you do at home is talk about the things you’re grateful or discuss how a particular character is treating others in an unjust way, your kids will begin to learn to value a more egalitarian set of ideals. For more reading, check out It Began With Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
Promote positive images of black people. Promoting positive self-image is important for all kids to feel valued and safe, but it’s particularly important for black children. Studies show that black children as young as five often begin to see themselves in a negative light - possibly because of the media they see at home and the unavoidable attitudes of others. Reading books and watching TV shows that promote positive images of black people will help black kids be safer as they grow up alongside other children and help them develop a more positive sense of self. For more reading, check out Have You Thanked an Inventor Today?
Watch news programs designed for kids. These programs generally present the information in a way that is accessible for young listeners, use kid-friendly vocabulary, and give a decent amount of background information without overwhelming anyone. If you’re a teacher, this is a great way to incorporate Social Emotional Learning into your lessons because you can cover your standards and discuss hard topics in a relevant way. I like Discovery Education for younger kids and CNN 10 for older kids.