How to talk with kids about what’s happening in the world

From images of police brutality and violent protests to the deaths of loved ones and the stress of isolation due to COVID-19, it’s a lot for anyone to grasp right now. For children, it can be an even bigger emotional struggle.

Years ago, Julie Christian made the choice to limit what her four children watch on TV and do online.

“My youngest one, he was having terrible tantrums and it was affecting our life at home to where it was almost like we didn’t really enjoy our family life,” she said.

When the pandemic hit, “first thing I thought was we’re all stressed out, we’re stuck in the house; let’s relax our rules and watch some movies and play some video games.”

Instead, her family stuck to the plan of limited screen time. Now, they’re opening up to each other about what’s going on in the world and how it’s impacting their family.

Dr. Alise Bartley with the Community Counseling Center said that shaping the news and giving it context are the best things you can do to help your children.

“We don’t want our children growing up in a bubble because then they aren’t able to deal with conflict, they’re not able to deal with the things that are going on every day in our society. It’s just that we need to be careful how much exposure our children have,” Bartley said.

“Our children can’t process all this information, you know. A 6-year-old is only going to be able to understand that people are getting hurt and houses are getting burned down”

Bartley said the next step is to let them know you’re there to help and that won’t change.

“Try to find a way to decrease our children’s fears to reassure them that yes, sometimes people get angry, but I’m not going to treat you that way. This isn’t how we work together as a family.”

It’s something Christian learned years ago.

“Investing time together, doing fun things, helps make it easier when it’s difficult things,” she said.

“The world can go crazy around them but if they know they matter and you’re there, they’re going to feel secure.”

Children might not come to you right away if they’re struggling emotionally, but some signs you can look out for include difficulty sleeping, changes in their eating habits, or any new behaviors or changes in behavior.


Helping children through trauma/current events:

School District of Lee County: Mental Health and Wellness Portal
CDC: Helping Children Cope Helping Children Cope
WHO: Helping Children Cope with Stress
Mayo Clinic: Helping Children Cope

Age-appropriate media for discussing current events:

Common Sense Media: Best news sources for kids
Washington Post: KidsPost
Time for Kids

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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