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How to Talk to Kids about Distressing News Headlines

How to Talk to Kids about Distressing News Headlines

When tough news hits the headlines, it can be tempting to gloss it over or hide the facts, especially when talking with children. As soon as my husband and I started talking about the recent Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival which left 59 people dead and hundreds injured, my daughter had questions. “What happened, Mommy? What did a bad guy do?” It can be challenging for parents to know how much to share and in which manner. Here are some ideas for how to share hard news with your kids.

Share the Basic Facts in Kid-Friendly Terms

News stories are often scary and distressing, even for adults. Kids don’t need to be exposed to all the gritty details from a news story, especially when kids don’t yet have a worldview to help process those details. The Las Vegas mass shooting that occurred on October 1, 2017 prompted a lot of discussion between me and my husband. We also realized we needed to filter that discussion in front of our young kids. When my 5-year-old asked questions, we told her that a bad man went to a music concert and hurt a lot of people and the police had to come and help. For a 5-year-old, that’s a fairly all-encompassing explanation.

Last Vegas mass shooting Route 91 Harvest festivalPhoto Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

Have an Intentional Discussion

Kids various ages will process news headlines different ways. My 3-year-old doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in the news but she may still have questions about a conversation she overhears. We sat down with our kids (we were driving) and explained the basics about the Las Vegas shooting, which promoted a discussion about why people make bad choices. On the flip side, we can highlight how lots of people acted as heroes and helped other people who were complete strangers.

Don’t Overexpose Kids to Television Reports

If you have young children, don’t expose them to endless television reports about a distressing news story. My husband and I mostly check the news on our phones, which allows us to watch videos and check for updates on our own terms. Turning off the TV allows parents to make sure their kids don’t see distressing photos or news updates as they unfold.

Filter the News as Kids Receive It

This tip goes back to re-wording the news in a way that helps kids process hard issues. Kids generally know what people have taught them, whether mom or dad or a teacher. News headlines can bring up issues that kids have never encountered and don’t understand the reasons for. Hard news stories are an opportunity to teach kids about right and wrong choices, ways to help other people, and also provide reassurance that your kids are safe. You can also explain that some events are rare or unlikely to happen again.

Combine the Facts with Reassurance and Hope

News stories that bring updates about a war, specific events like a shooting, or international events such as the London bombing in September 2017 can raise fears for kids that are far beyond their ability to process. Parents can reassure kids that they are safe at home and help kids process their emotions. We can talk about the police officers that help in scary situations and the medical respondents that provide first-aid services. Parents can intentionally teach kids about the danger in the world, while giving kids tools to balance their fears with hope. When a “bad guy” chooses to spread violence, the heroes come out and show their courage to help carry the day.

What are some ways you’ve helped your kids process distressing news stories?

Author Bio

Katie

Katie has been married for 9 years, has 3 young children, and loves creative projects, photography, decorating, and encouraging others to pursue their ideas. She loves the Lord and feels blessed to be a stay-at-home mom with opportunities to enjoy creative outlets from home.

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15 Comments on "How to Talk to Kids about Distressing News Headlines"

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ChrissyAdventures

I can’t image talking to a little one about our national news now-a-days. It was hard enough for me to explain 9/11 attacks :-/

Elizabeth O

This is such an interesting topic. It is important to talk to our kids about what happens in our nation in friendly terms. So they can understand what happens and why.

Frank

These issues are so hard to discuss with kids. Great tips!

Shubhada

I think this is important to talk about. Right now it’s challenging to talk about hard issues with my son because he’s only a kid. Maybe at the right time and right age.

Lucy

This is a very interesting topic and something important to discuss. When I have kids I will have to figure out a way.

Tanvi Rastogi

This is so important and proactive of you to think about. It must be uncomfortable and challenging but still important to discuss with kids.

❥ tanvii.com

Deb B.

I’m so glad you brought this to light. It’s so important, especially in light of all the sadness and devastation that’s happening in the world today, that we find a very gentle approach in discussing what’s happening with our kids. It’s so true that news has to be filtered, and at the same time, we can’t shelter them completely. So glad to have come across this post!

Tiffany Yong

I found the way you try to bring the news across to kids interesting. I had a similar conversation with a parent who see the need to bring the severity of the issue to her kids, warning them not to go and do certain things without letting parents know~

Cia Black

In today’s world these are great tips t follow. With my oldest 2 we tell them exactly what’s going on, because if they don’t hear it from us they find out from their friends. My younger 2 though on 4 & 2 we tend to keep safeguarded from news and the happenings as you suggested in your post. We have the tablets set so they can access what is put on kids mode which has made it a lot easier to do.

Laura Charles

This is such a great post. I think it’s important for parents to have difficult conversations with children as they will have unanswered questions that only parents can answer to in a comforting way. These are some really great tips. Thanks for sharing.

Afroz

There is much that needs to be addressed in today’s times. The kind of evil and cruel things happening around.. We have to keep our kids updated and aware about their surroundings. Most of us struggle with it..
Thank you for the ideas.

Nicole f

I so agree! While it is important to share what’s going on in the headlines with our kids, it’s also best to share details with them on lighter terms.

Linda

I wouldn’t be good at talking about such things with kids. But you describe it so well, the facts about recent shooting you explained says it ll but in a really nice manner for the kids

Oyinkan

Reassurance is so necessary! It provides hope for not just kids but also adults.

Thena

Thank you for this. I’ve been wondering how to address and this def. helps.

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