Confession time. Sometimes I ignore the news. I turned off the Egyptian crisis coverage about two or three days in. I just couldn't take it anymore.
Not the oppression and scandal. The shooing my daughter out of the room every time the news came on. The questions. The balance between making a 5-year-old understand there's bad in the world out there that needs to be recognized and allowing her to retain an age-appropriate innocence.
Frankly? I feel like crap saying I've ignored it. I'm an adult and current events junkie, and I want my kid to be aware too.
But my venture into ignoramus-dom is going to work for you. Because I was embarrassed, I've turned to Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to tell us how to talk to our kids about the bad, bad world out there without screwing them up.
First up? A bit of humble pie for me -- ignoring it is not going to make it go away (duh), so it's time to tackle the issue. We've made it easier with some simple "what NOT to do" hints and input from Dr. Kaplow:
Don't Ignore It:
It's important to use the events to help elementary schoolers begin to understand their place in the world. By showing them the events in Egypt, by discussing issues like freedom of speech and democracy, elementary schoolers will start to get a sense of the larger world. Specifically, how their day to day lives are shaped by the policies and laws of our country and how our policies and laws differ from others around the world.
Meet your children where they are at developmentally. Don’t worry if they don’t “get it.” Simple, age appropriate lessons are more than enough.
Don't Talk Too Much:
For elementary schoolers, it’s important to not over-inform. The events here have relevance to topics they may be studying in school. Things like freedom of speech, democracy, governmental structure. These are all ways to take what is happening “over there” and bring relevance to it.
Don't Expect Them to Think Big:
Elementary schoolers are for the most part still ego-centric. They will focus on their lives and the meaning of events as it relates directly to them. The more you can tie the events back to how it impacts their lives or how the lives of individuals in Egypt are different from theirs, the more relevance it will have.
Don't Assume Your Kids Are Too Young:
A child who shows interest in what is going on, that is, who asks questions about the events, is old enough to begin to learn. Basically the best way to tell if a child is old enough is if they express curiosity or interest. If they don’t, then chances are they are too young to fully comprehend. With the uncertainty of the events going on and the violence, it's neither necessary nor helpful to try and “make” a child understand.
Don't Let the TV Do Your Job:
Given the uncertainty of what images will be displayed, and the overall uncertainty of the events unfolding, it's extremely important that you don't let younger children watch unsupervised. As a general rule, ask yourself, as a parent, “does this feel appropriate for my child?"
Older children can, however, benefit from watching with a parent and use the events on the news to serve for a larger discussion.
Do you have a tough time tackling these big topics with your kids? What works for you?
Image via Marcin Wichary/Flickr