Thanks to technology our world is shrinking and our awareness of what is happening around the world is increasing. It is very hard to shield our kids from the tragedies that happen, not only in our home town, but around the world.
Enter 2020 and a global pandemic. The news is constant. We as adults are getting fatigued. There is always this uncertainty going on in the background. We are dealing with disappointment and overwhelm. We can’t for one moment think that it isn’t affecting our children.
I wrote this list of ways we can help our children process the news after a natural disaster that was all over the news – kids were talking about it. But it is just as relevant now, with Covid 19, political unrest, environmental concerns, human rights issues, etc.
These are 10 keys to helping us help our children process the news in a way that will not only make them strong citizens but will also maintain their emotional security. Regardless of the ages of your children – each point applies but the application of each point will vary depending on the ages of your children.
1—Know that children take in and think about more than they actually understand. Kids are great receivers of information but not so good at interpreting that information! When we talk about things that they see we help them gain perspective, we help them understand truth, and process how this truly affects them. We cannot afford to think that they don’t understand – they may not understand correctly, but they have some emotional and intellectual response to what they’ve seen.
2—Keep exposure age appropriate. Children become more interested in the wider world the older they get so always keep exposure to the News and Current Events to be age appropriate and sensitive to each child’s temperament. That being said, kids don’t need to see or hear the news 24/7. Turn it on – learn what’s going on – and turn it off! If you keep watching and watching, or if the News Channel becomes background news to your ears, you won’t pick up cues or opportunities to talk to your kids about it.
3—Discuss Media and how they operate. Are they credible? Is it the whole truth? Do they have a slant? Is there another side to the story? When children are young they believe everything – so you need to become more of an authority than the TV News Reporter, especially in the eyes of your little ones. As they grow older, they start to be able to think more critically about what they see and hear.
4—Turn off the TV and pray. Some news is disturbing and heart wrenching. These tragedies involve other people – other people that God loves. Make it a habit of praying for the people involved – both the victims and the Responders and Carers.
5—Ask questions and have discussions – often
What do you know / understand about this issue?
What happened? When? Where? Why?
What’s the history or background to this issue?
What do you feel? What do you think about this issue?
These questions are more appropriate for older kids – probably after 8yo. For younger kids, help them process their emotions about what they see and hear, more than their understanding.
6—When talking about it, help your kids to see a bigger picture. Look at the effects on other people in the area, and how they are responding. There are the Responders (Police, Ambulance, Firefighters etc), the Community and those who have long term care of the victims. Look at how this event will affect the community in the weeks, months, years ahead. Have a map handy so you can talk about locations.
7—Watch for signs that your kids are developing a passion for a particular cause. Encourage this. When they have a particular understanding of a topic – because they are passionate and have followed it closely – let them talk about it at length, let them teach their other siblings about it.
8—Don’t just talk about the headline tragedies and drama – talk about the fun and mundane things as well. Talk about the weather, movies, business and economics, and feel-good stories of people doing nice things for each other.
9—Be careful of your reactions to the News. If your ire and passion is going to be overwhelming for your little child then maybe watch the news elsewhere! Though our children want to learn about the world, they take their cues from us. If we are angry, or fearful, they will be too – and yet they may not have a true perspective on either of those emotions.
10—Talk from a Biblical worldview. A worldview is the framework from which we understand and make sense of the world. So what does God’s word say about these things that are going on around us. The natural disasters and the terrible things people do to other people is all about the decay of God’s creation due to sin. What is our response to be in these situations? What does God’s word say? Does God’s word have something to say about the issues that we face in our world today: marriage, abortion, caring for the aged, education, national borders. What principles does God want us to live by? These are good things to talk about with our older kids in light of current events.
Responding to the News of this World
Christians are to be in this world, but not of it. To my thinking that means we should be aware of what is going on around us, but we aren’t to be the same – we aren’t to respond the same, we aren’t to be motivated by the same motivations. We are to have a different way of thinking and different ways of acting.
Some people look at the Bible and interpret the events happening in our world as unfolding of prophecy. I don’t dip into that line of thinking because I ultimately hold onto the thing that Jesus said – we won’t know when He will return – but He will return. I don’t see interpreting the Bible that way as helping us with the commission that Jesus gave us – to make disciples.
What I do see the Bible helping us with in the midst of crazy and uncertainty and disasters and brokenness – is
- A Gospel of Hope, the message that God made us, loves us and wants a relationship with us and found a way for that to happen.
- A God-given purpose – to glorify God in all we do.
So to me, when I see the effects of sin in this world (both in the physical world and in our hearts) then I look to the Scriptures that help us walk with Jesus, help us glorify God, help us do the things that he has asked us to do.
And in summary that is – to love God and love others, and to grow closer to Him and to reflect his love in all our actions.
When we have this perspective of the world and the world events it will change how we interact with our children on the things that they see or hear over various media. We need to help our children see the world as God sees the world and talking about the News and Current Events is one way we can do that.
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