Do you lie to your kids about the news?

Katherine - posted on 02/10/2011 ( 7 moms have responded )

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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?

7 Comments

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If a child ask ,you should answer, I have some teens who I have always bn honest with even about myself and that includes what goes on in the world, my opinion is that people should try to answer questions according to the age being age appropriate, I found that this type honesty lets ur child know that you want to talk with them gives them a sense of respect it makes them feel like you feel they are fully capable of being little adults, my teens now talk to me and tell me everything ( sometimes they tell me more than I want to know) but the honesty is awsome, otherwise you may bring up a repressed child? anyways this is just my out look on the other hand you could always put on kids shows and still have a conversation that way or even mk it look like your really involved in whatever they are watching I suppose it would wrk.

Mrs. - posted on 02/10/2011

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I had to stop watching the news when I got PPD/PPA. It's been 19 months but I still have to avoid it so my anxiety doesn't get worse. Instead, I read online, where there is some emotional distance. I also am okay watching The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, it's done in the context of humour so it's more of a stress release.

May I say, since I made these changes, (this includes not watching Dr. Oz because I always feel I have a disease or am going to die of something awful afterwards) I feel less anxious about the world around me. I'll most likely continue to do it this way as she grows.

Jenn - posted on 02/10/2011

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It's not often that I watch the news when the kid are up, but not because I want to shelter them. If my kids were to see or hear something (like the recent events in Egypt for example), I would tell them what was going on. Why would I lie?

Sarah - posted on 02/10/2011

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I very rarely watch the news. I hear stuff on the radio, or I see things on the internet, but mostly, I don't really bother with it.
I do read my local newspaper most weeks though.

Sounds childish, but most of the time, I'd really rather not know! It's ALWAYS bad news. I mean, shouldn't the news involve positive stories as well.......it's surely not all doom and gloom in life all the time!!

So I've never had to think about what my kids will see, because the news is rarely on in my house. If they were to watch it though, and had questions, I'd just answer them honestly (in an age appropriate way)

Danielle - posted on 02/10/2011

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My oldest is 7 so he's in that ask a million questions stage. I'm honest with him to a degree and I don't volunteer information but if he asks a question I answer it. I am guilty of hitting a question I don't quite know how to answer and my answer is "Go play!" but once I can come up with an adequte answer I will usually answer the question. My mother strongly disagrees with being completely honest with my children. We had a nice argument over me telling the kids that their cat had died.She thinks I should have told them that she ran away. Now I didn't volunteer the information but waited till they asked and then explained that she was old and sick and it was time for her to go to heaven. I would rather them know she had no choice then to think she ran away. That would have given them false hope that she was coming back. Yes they cried but they dealt with it and moved on. The only thing I've never been honest with them about is Ho Ho and I don't know how I'm gonna deal with that when they realize all this time I've been lying about him being real. Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there lol. My point is that even as an adult I have to worry about my parents "playing things down" to make them seem less serious than they actually are and I never want my kids to have to go somewhere else for honesty as I did and still do at times.

Stifler's - posted on 02/10/2011

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My parents always let us watch the news. We hardly ever got the jargon so they'd dumb it down for us.

Katherine - posted on 02/10/2011

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It's hard now even with my 5yo. She is very perceptive and I have to watch what is on. It's not like I want to shelter her, but at this age, I really don't think she needs to know....

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