It can sometimes feel like the world is topsy-turvy. For sure. It can even seem as if every time we turn on the television or radio – or look at the newspaper – the news is overwhelming.
But imagine—if we sometimes feel that way, how our kids might or must be feeling if they too are picking up on it?
All-too-often, as busy moms who are kicking butt and taking names to get it all done, we can temporarily “forget” that little eyes and ears (or even adolescent or teenage eyes and ears) are absorbing some – or even a lot – of the same things we are. Is this okay? All bad? Or somewhere in between?
How much should a responsible mom let her kids “adult”—be aware of what is happening “out there” in the world?
It might seem like an exercise in futility to protect our kids from all the “adult” news that seems to happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After all, if we are watching or listening to the news while preparing dinner to stay up on current events, there is a chance they will see or hear, right? Or even if we’re super careful to make sure they don’t pick up on any of this at home, if they’re in school, they’re very likely to hear about these things there, right?
Yes… and no.
While it may seem futile, it is advisable to take whatever steps we can to protect our kids from some of the things the world offers up, for as long as possible.
And for those times we can’t, isn’t it our responsibility to help control the delivery, consumption, and understanding of those happenings as much as possible?
Toddler to pre-school age children may not understand anything they are seeing or hearing in the background, such as on the news.
However, they are very likely to pick up on if something is bothering you. If they ask you – or seem to sense when you are down or upset – you would likely do well to acknowledge what they are sensing is real.
First, let them know that while mommy is sad or upset, etc., it has nothing to do with them or even mom(my) herself. Then, let your child know that being sad, or upset, or even mad sometimes, is normal. But also be clear that it will go away soon and mommy will be happy again. The bottom line is to help them understand that having “not happy” emotions or feelings is normal, but that those emotions or feelings are also transient—they will pass.
With older school age children, adolescents, or teens who might accidentally see or hear something that is disturbing or distresses them, it’s time to engage them in conversation.
Ask your child or children if they have questions. Even if they say they don’t (or don’t seem to want to ask them), ask them how they are feeling about what they saw or heard.
Similarly, if these older kids have come across or hear certain news at school and come home with “information” or confusion, let them discuss it with you.
Again, ask if they have questions and how what they heard made them feel. Most often, they just need to talk through their feelings out loud to make sense of the them and the information they stumbled upon—and make themselves feel more at ease with what they learned.
As far as what to say specifically in those conversations, there aren’t really hard and fast rules.
Most experts contend you should follow the child’s lead for the most part. However, most also agree you should start small and vague with your answers, especially for younger children, and work from there. In other words, give as little information as you can, described as generally as possible (with minimal description or “negative words”) at first.
You will know when and if you should be more specific by their response. If your initial answer satisfied them, they will let it go. If it didn’t, they will likely ask follow up questions. This is when you can decide how much more detail to add. Just be sure to expand your response incrementally, in small amounts, and you should come to a point where what you have given them becomes “enough.”
But it doesn’t stop there. After the discussion, be sure to keep connecting with your child or children so you can know if they are still being affected. If so, keep talking. With many children, merely expressing their feelings to someone they trust will suffice. Of course, however, if you notice that they are talking about the news or events more and more – or are becoming distressed – then additional attention might be necessary.
Again, the world just isn’t a perfect, happy, place all the time. As busy moms, we can sometimes forget that just as certain events might be affecting us, our children might also be impacted—either by the events themselves, or when they merely pick up on how we are feeling. Keeping an eye out for that scenario – and talking it out as openly and honestly as is age appropriate – is often the best start for providing the necessary support they need. Then, of course, making sure to make time to fit in fun and engaging things to do together to counteract any of those “outside” emotions.