Every day there seems to be a new atrocity that is taking place in the world. A 24-hour news cycle means that we can be exposed to these traumatic and tragic events as they are happening. No longer limited to the morning paper or the nightly news, images and discussions about world events can reach us immediately.
Us adults are grown up enough to make decisions about what we expose ourselves to. If it gets too much, we can turn it off. But for the children around us, they too are absorbing the same distressing content.
My 9-year-old son recently told me that he was half looking forward to becoming an adult. When I asked why, he said that he didn’t want to meet any robbers or men that kill people. But in the same breath, also mentioned he was looking forward to becoming an adult so he could get a credit card, a car and a horse. Hopefully he has plans for his own house, as I’m not sure where the horse is going. But it isn’t easy to see the world as a balanced place of positive and negative, when we are exposed to so much tragedy.
But this is the planet we live on, and mind you, always have. A planet with a history of traumatic events, but also a place of natural wonder and phenomenal human capabilities. Yes, we live in a world where people and natural forces can hurt and kill, but also a world where love can make a difference.
Kids need to know what is happening in the world, and it's essential for building resilience. If we cushion our kids too much now, they will be in for a rude shock when they enter adulthood.
So how do we protect our children from the terrifying images and discussions surrounding crime, wars, terrorism and disasters, but also expose them to the realities of life? How do we inoculate them for what they will experience, or at least witness in the future without distressing them? After all, adult life isn’t all Tinkerbell and Thomas The Tank Engine.
For kids, understanding how the world works, better prepares them for the world they are going to live in, and this can start with the way we communicate with them. Learning about what is going on in the world, can often be a positive educational experience for our kids, and can promote realistic views of the world.
But we have to be very mindful of the age that this exposure starts. The little ones don’t necessarily need to be exposed at all. But if they accidently do, they may ask for more information about the plane crash, disaster or murder they heard about. They might not be able to comprehend the truth and feel frightened and worried.
It's hard to know how much truth to provide, but we need to be guided by the child's questioning, and not go into too much detail. Most kids don’t want to know as much as us adults, and are quite satisfied with a short, undetailed response. Other kids might want more, so keep providing small amounts of information until they’re content with the response.
Regardless of the information released, all kids need to feel safe in the present moment, and assured that they’re okay. Often when listening to what’s going on in the world, they may feel frightened about it happening to them and their family. As adults, we need to be the ones to reassure.
Mosty importantly, we need to balance the information kids are exposed too, and be mindful of what information is feeding their brain. Don’t let it all be negative and frightening. Expose them to the positive goings on in the world, on purpose. Watch documentaries together about discoveries, nature, and people who have made a difference.
That’s when kids get a much more balanced view of the world, and this is what will show them that the world isn’t such a scary place. And in fact, that when they’re ready, they can make quite a difference in it. Us humans can’t make a difference in the world when we come from a place of fear.
If adults, through our own behaviours are exposing our kids to the world events, then it is also adults that need to give our kids a healthy, balanced perspective of the way the world works too.
If done properly it allows our younger generation to start thinking of ways they can change the world they are going to inherit, for the better.