The question of whether or not to inform your young children about current affairs is a very personal and sensitive question and one that I always ask myself when it comes to my own children.
Initially my reaction was that I want my “kids to be kids,” meaning I wanted them to live in innocence and remain blissfully ignorant to the realities of society. I didn’t want to burden them with knowledge they are not prepared nor mature enough to process and understand.
But at the same time, I felt angry that, as a mother of color, I had to have certain conversations with my children that my white mom friends do not have to have with their children (though they should), like #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality and violence, and what it means for marginalized groups (i.e. African Americans, Latinos, women, immigrants, Muslims, other religious minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disabled/handicapped community,and many others), when a person like Donald Trump is elected to the most powerful position in the world.
Then, I listened to my children and realized they are a lot more aware of what is going on. Even under the age of 10, they were capable of understanding more than I gave them credit for. And it was then, I realized I needed to have these conversations with them right away.
The main reason I decided to talk to them about current affairs was because I wanted to be the one to help guide them in their understanding of what’s going on. I wanted to be the one to principally shape their ideas about the world around them rather than strangers who do not necessarily share the same value system or beliefs as my family.
Approaching these conversations is not always easy, because if you have a “deep thinker” like I do, you might have to do some probing to get the conversation going. Here are a few ways to approach current affairs conversations with young children that have worked for me:
Practice the Conversation
Think about what you want to say before you actually speak to your children. Talk to close friends with children about what you want to say and even “practice” the conversation with your friends before speaking to the kids.
Find the Right Time
This might be after dinner, during bath time or while making the next day’s lunch. The “right-time” is a time and place where your children can be the center of your attention and where outside distractions are limited.
Ask Them What They Know Already
For example, when the police shoot another innocent person, a bomb is set off in another country or Donald Trump makes another abhorrent remark, ask them “What have you heard about this? What do you think about this?” Then listen fully before jumping in.
Tell the Truth
Explain the facts as you understand them. With young children, you do not need to go into graphic detail just give enough information so they understand the message you are trying to convey. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Sometimes the best and only answer to the question is “I don’t know.”
Share Your Feelings with Your Child
Don’t be fooled and think your children don’t know what is going on with you. They are constantly watching you and taking their cues from you. Therefore, it is okay, and good even, to acknowledge your feelings with your children. By sharing your feelings with them, your children get a chance to see that even though upset, you can pull yourself together and continue on. This is an important lesson for them in facing upsets and disappointments in their own lives.
When the conversation ends, reassure your children that you will do everything you can to keep them safe and informed. Reassure them that you are always there and open to answer any questions or to talk about this topic (and others) again in the future. Finally and most importantly, reassure them that they are loved.
I hope these tips give you a starting point to discussing current affairs, especially the tougher but important issues with your young children. Good luck and happy conversations!!