The world can be a scary place, even to adults. Discussing world events with your children can be a tough ask. Especially if your kids are getting older and/or you’re not trying to scare them. You might disagree as parents on how to go about it. Your kids might not even want to talk about it. Overall, it is, by all means, not easy. So for now, I beg the question…
Do you remember the first time you learned to ride a bike?
The fear of “firsts”
Maybe your helmet was on backwards, or you wobbled side-to-side trying to find your balance. Maybe you felt a little scared to be doing something so new, or maybe you were eager to fly down the streets and travel far-and-wide.
But the whole time, a parent or guardian held tightly to the bike – the same twisted excitement and nervousness flowing through them. Parents often grapple to find harmony between supporting growth and learning, while maintaining safety and security at the same time.
We want to protect our children
This is because as a parent, you want to protect your child – physically, but mentally as well. Understandably, you may feel inclined to shield them from things that may cause mental discomfort as a way to minimize negative emotions. Today, it certainly can feel like a never-ending loop of upsetting or worrying stories makes this aspect of parenthood even more difficult. It can be tempting to downplay the situation, twist the details, or ignore the event completely when we’re faced with curious children.
Information is everywhere
Information is exchanged in various new ways now: TV, radio, social media, text messages – virtually all means of entertainment and communication are used to spread current stories. Our children are connected to these advancements. This makes it difficult to monitor or filter what children are introduced to, but also increases their exposure to overwhelming or traumatic news. However, there are ways to transform these distressing situations into a purposeful exchange.
Discussing world events with your children
Discussing world events will help to broaden your child’s understanding of societal context, as well as provides you an opportunity to pass along skills to manage stress and express emotions.
Try the tips below to guide discussions about difficult subjects!
Manage your stress first.
Before you have the conversation, reflect on your personal needs first. Are you in the right frame of mind to discuss potentially distressing situations?
Discussing scary world events with your children can be a delicate situation and the goal is to organize your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to channel the spirit into a positive and meaningful discussion. Process your thoughts and emotions prior to the talk, such as through journaling, so you can approach the conversation with a calm and level mind. This can prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed, as well as support your own mental health too.
Talk honestly about an event, focusing on the general facts or overview of the event. This helps establish and strengthen a genuine and open line of communication. Your child will feel supported and trusting, allowing your relationship to become a secure outlet for processing emotions and sorting through confusions.
Encourage your child to think about the event from the viewpoint in the story. This can not only help the child better understand the situation, but it inspires empathy as well. It can be helpful to relate the event to a similar situation the child may have experienced. For example, “Remember the time you got upset at your sister for taking your toys? The people in the news are feeling similar emotions because…” You may also try prompting questions, like: how do you think these people feel? Do you know why they’re angry? What do you do when something is unfair?
One of the most important actions you can take when approaching these discussions is to embrace questions. By welcoming questions instead of shutting them down, you continue to strengthen the reliability of your bond. Similar to honesty, the child will feel safe when you facilitate a curious mind and welcome future conversations.
Be a Positive Model.
One way children learn is by watching. As a parent, you are an important and main figure for teaching your child how to navigate life. Model healthy coping strategies to guide your child through mental discomfort. This could look like focusing on breathing, taking breaks from technologies, or other ways to release emotions. Try to integrate means of coping as a family! Talking together is one example, and you can try other shared activities like a family walk or weekend trip.
De-escalating Family Arguments
Conflict is not inherently negative. Arguing a topic from opposing views can actually further develop communication and understanding. However, the disagreement becomes unhealthy and dangerous for a family as a whole when respectful dialogue is replaced by verbal or physical aggression. This can easily happen when speaking in terms of beliefs and views. As teenagers turn into young adults, they build views of their oen that may not always align with yours.
Whether you find yourself a part of the situation or watching it unfold, here are some helpful tips to mitigate distress and tension among the entire family:
Recognize the signs.
Note certain trends that recur when the discussion starts becoming aggressive. This is an important first step to preventing and stopping harmful actions from occurring. When you notice a sign, you can implement other management strategies to decrease the tension.
Take a breather.
After you identify the discussion may get out of control, a way to reestablish agency over the situation is to take a breather. Remove yourself and encourage others to take a moment away. This allows for the group to separate and process emotions individually, rather than respond in the heat of the moment to say or do something harmful. You are able to reevaluate how you actually feel and what you actually mean, and will be able to come together again with a level and calm mind.
Talk to one another, and check-in to see how the other person is doing. The true cause behind intense emotions may come from the topic of the conversation, or something else entirely. Open communication to support one another and work as a unit helps with processing emotions, and prevents misplaced blame and anger.
Reflect on what actually matters. By prioritizing needs and sharing as a family, the entire group is able to strengthen connections and focus on building relationships instead of fighting.
Family Alternatives for communicating
Differences and changes don’t have to be viewed as something frightening. We may certainly feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to approach these situations – especially with children.
The advice here strives to help you and your children process events and work together as a unit. It is more than understandable to feel as if this may not be enough.
Providers at Makin Wellness are equipped and skilled to offer further guidance through unique, diverse therapy options. For more information of how to obtain family counseling, you can visit www.makinwellness.com or call our offices at (883) 274-4325!
Remember, there is always power in knowledge – and you can advance your own and your child’s self-improvement through engaged conversations!