How Do You Talk to Your Kids About All the Bad News in the World?

father and sonMy wife's clock radio starts blaring at 6:30 every morning just as the kids are slowly stirring from their slumber. The news of the day is usually tame -- weather, politics, business -- but some mornings, it's all tragedy. Hours of it. Tragedy so plainly wrought that I wonder if I shouldn't throw the clock radio out the window.

So how do we talk to kids about this stuff? How do we hide the news when it comes at us from all angles? How do we keep a plugged-in generation in the dark? Should we?


I want to wax a bit philosophical this week and would love your feedback on how you, as parents, talk to your kids about scary things.

We have taken to turning off the radio some mornings, but we've found it hard to shelter the kids given the barrage of news they hear and see every day. Our oldest is too young for Twitter or Facebook, but he still came home asking about the Boston bombings. It was one of the saddest things I've ever had to do. I had to explain evil to my son.

I told him a bad person blew up a bomb and hurt people at a marathon. I reminded him about my marathon that I ran about 50 pounds ago two years into his own life. I explained that some people are sick and they have bad ideas and they think they can change things with violence.

I explained that bad things happen.

News is no longer mediated. It comes at us from all angles, from a scrap of newsprint left on the couch to a ticker in Times Square to a flood of updates from friends and family. It's always with us, a hive of buzzing bits that promises to overwhelm us if we're not careful -- and it's hard to be careful. It's like a juggler spinning plates. We don't want our kids to be around when they all crash.

Every few days, I reach out and turn off the radio when I hear something about murders or car bombs or more war. And some days I don't have to. Some days things are fine (as fine as they can be, all things considered). Some days we don't have to be afraid. Hopefully more of those days are coming.

As Mr. Rogers so wisely put it:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world.

I like to think we're all our kids' helpers, the ones who will lead them out of the crash and boom and fluster of the modern news cycle and into the peace and calm of understanding.

You can read more about talking to kids about bad news from PBS here

How do you talk to your kids about bad news?


Image via Eduardo Blanco/Flickr

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