I am a tried and true 80’s baby. I am from the land of playing outside until the street lights came on, calling your friends on their home phone, dial up internet, and the slow news cycle. While there are admitted advantages to living in a technologically advanced society, that 24 hour news cycle, doesn’t always seem to be one of them. When we can be constantly updated through first hand accounts on social media, alerts from both local and international news networks, or a quick google search, it is definitely much harder to protect our kids from the barrage of information, especially the negative information, that is coming at all of us. This makes the questions that we have to ask ourselves much different than the parents and the youth leaders of the past. It’s no longer about how we can shield and protect them from what is going on in the world. The fact is, unless you live under a rock with no technology and never leave your home, in our technology driven world your kids will encounter information about your local community and our global one that can be hard to process and understand. This means that the new question we should be asking, isn’t how do we hide it, but how do we help them process through it. Below you will find a few tips to help you be prepared to do so.
- Stay Up-To-Date Yourself – If you’re anything at all like me, you avoid the news like the plague. It can sometimes become a real struggle to stay in the know when it seems like most, if not all of what’s being reported is negative. However, it’s hard to help kids process through what’s going on in the world, if we don’t know ourselves. As adults in the lives of children, it is imperative to be familiar with the events that are impacting our local community, the schools that our students attend and the neighborhoods that they live in, along with what’s happening nationally and globally. We are better prepared to have a conversation when we have at least a general idea of what’s going on. You can easily do this by signing up for local, national and global news highlights to come to your inbox or breaking news alerts that come to your phone. This helps you to navigate the information in a way and at a pace that you can handle.
- Dig Deeper – If there is a topic that you KNOW is going to be a hot topic for your kids, get ahead of it by digging deeper than the surface details. Try to engage as many resources as possible to receive as full of a picture as possible so that you are ready to arm your kids with solid information, not just popular opinion. Be open to learning something new and even changing your thought process.
- Create A Brave Space – You often hear people talking about having safe spaces for their kids to share and discuss information, but the reality is that what makes each of us feel safe may not be the same thing. This is where a brave space comes in. A brave space means that you are free to bring up a topic or share your thought on a particular current event, even if they are not popular, and you can be certain that you will be heard and respected, even if your parents or siblings won’t necessarily agree with you.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Say, “I Don’t Know.” – With each passing day, our society is faced with situations and circumstances that we NEVER saw coming. Things we could not have even imagined in our wildest dreams. And it seems to be coming at us faster and faster with each news cycle. As a result, regardless of how well informed we try to be, there are going to be plenty of times where we just honestly don’t know, and we have to be okay with saying that. It’s a great reminder that it is not our job as adults to be all knowing, but we are tasked with being honest and, “I don’t know.” is one of the most honest answers that we can give. It is also a great opportunity to invite them into deeper relationship by committing to searching for information and answers together. Kids understand and respect that we don’t know everything, and they are encouraged when we invite them into the role of co-conspirator as we search for the answers to the hard questions together.
- Invite in the Experts – If you have access to someone or a community of people that have first hand knowledge of the current events that your kids are most curious about or most impacted by, invite them to share their expertise. It’s a conversation game changer when you have those at the forefront of the discussion in the involved. It also helps to make stories less abstract for your kids. It’s not just something that is effecting those people over there, but someone right here that I can see and touch and talk to.
All of these steps are simple, but they are not necessarily easy. It can actually be quite challenging to navigate today’s most pressing news stories in a way that honors where your child is developmentally and still protects their innocence in the process. Hopefully, these tips will help you to have the hardest conversations in a way that brings understanding to all.
Written by: Star-C site director Kristin Hemingway