The reality is that what happens in the world isn’t always good news and listening to it and talking about it relentlessly can cause us stress but more importantly, it can also be worrying for little ears that may be listening.
It is natural for children and young people to be curious about what is going on in the lives of the people closest to them and in the wider world; however, we need to careful of how and when we choose to inform them. This means that the language we use needs to be considered and appropriate. Less is more is a very true sentiment in the case of sharing difficult news with children. They do not have the life experience and years of desensitisation that we have behind us and so they are more delicate when it comes to the details of any significant event. Children often pick up on the gravity of a situation quite easily and can therefore be spared the gory details but this is not to say we cannot tell them anything. Often if we withhold all information their imagination will do more damage than the basic information and for this reason it is a balancing act.
Below are some tips on how best to achieve the balance of informing without creating fear.
1. Let children know the facts. This will help with process what is going on and will reassure them that adults can talk about tricky subjects with them in a way that feels safe and well managed.
2. Avoid overexposure to news and to the many sensationalised or even falsified sources out there. Chose reputable news sources and share what you think they need to hear.
3. Balance things with good news. Perhaps seek out a good news story of the day or week and talk about the benefits that the tale has inspired.
4. Reassure children by letting them know that even though some difficult things are happening in the world, they are safe. It also helps to normalise their concern because they can often begin to worry about their own worry and that’s a spiral worth avoiding.
5. Choose the best possible time for conversations about difficult news. Rushing out the door or just before bed wouldn’t be ideal times to bring up unpleasantness of the world around us. Ensure that there is plenty of time for questions and defusing so that emotions aren’t running high if they are trying to sleep or hurrying off somewhere else.