As a parent, it is natural to want to shield children from traumatic events. However, seeing and hearing the news can’t always be prevented. Whether your child catches glimpses of the TV, is on social media, or hears friends talking about current events at school – it is important to be aware and recognize their exposure while maintaining open and honest lines of communication. Below are a few ways you can talk to your child during times of uncertainty.
Keep the lines of communication open.
The most important thing you can do for a child of any age is to let them know that they can come to you with any questions. However, be careful how you present information, and do not give any more details than you think they can handle. Questions and concerns may linger and surface much later, so do not be surprised if your child at first seems disinterested in the topic because they may not process it or be ready to talk about it right away. No matter how old your child is, they need you, especially when the world around them is unsettled. If you feel insecure, talk to another adult and calm yourself so your child does not pick up on your concern.
Focus on the helpers.
We may not have the answers, but in the words of television host, author, and producer, Mister Rogers you can find comfort in focusing on the helpers.
If we focus our attention on the countless people who run in the direction of danger in order to help, the first responders who do magic to save lives, the people who shield their loved ones with their own body, we find a positive lens of heroism, selflessness, courage, and compassion.
Let your child know what they and others can do to make the world better.
Action can often help us to feel more positive and in control of our environment. Brainstorm with your child about what they can do to help improve their community and the situations of those in need. These activities can include fundraising or even organizing a project in your community to make a difference.
While the state of the world can feel overwhelming, it is important to recognize our own power as moms and dads to effect change. That starts with the story we tell our children, and the compassion and courage that we demonstrate to them. We are grateful to the endless wisdom and kindness that Fred Rogers showed us and our children over the decades. Now it’s our turn to continue the tradition.
Below are a few resources to help you navigate difficult conversations:
- NPR – What to say to kids when the news is scary
- NYTimes - How to talk to kids about Ukraine
- One Tough Job - Understanding Stress: Positive, Tolerable and Toxic
This content was originally published on our parenting website, One Tough Job, and was updated on 3/1/22