Supporting Your Kids When They See the News

photo of child in hoodie holding bear and staring down fearfully

Supporting your kids when they see the news is very important. Here is our story.

We were in Colorado for Thanksgiving, in a ski shop, when the news came on the television. I couldn’t move fast enough. Trying to distract her I noticed some gloves hanging on the wall. Loudly I called her to see them. The talking heads droned on. I went to the cashier and asked that they turn off the news immediately. They fumbled and forged for the remote, but it was too late, “I already saw it, Mom.”

As I enveloped my beautiful baby in my arms, we both cried. We lost innocence, both in Club Q and inside the ski shop that evening. So, my kid saw the news, now what?

Supporting Your Kids When They See the News

1. Allow space for big feelings. This might look different for younger kids than for older children. Your child might cry or could be angry. What is important is that we give them space to feel.

2. After the initial shock has passed, help them label emotions. In my case, I waited until the next day. I serendipitously found an inclusive coffee shop and took her there. I pointed out the sign at the counter, and we sat down. Gently, I reminded her that safe spaces are around us. Then I told her I wanted to talk about what she saw. Labeling emotions is such an important skill for everyone. Being able to articulate emotions, not stuff, is healthy.

3. Listen more than talk. I literally let her get it all out. It is amazing what our children share when allowed to speak without interruption.

4. Don’t try to fix it. I know this is a biggy. As parents, we want to fix things and make them go away. The fact of the matter is we can’t fix this. To be clear, I do wish she did not see the news, but she did. I wish the shooting did not occur, but I cannot fix that. Acknowledge that the situation is awful, it is not okay, and talk about an action that can be taken.

The fact is, we have a gun problem in the United States. We allow access to weapons that time and again are used to kill students, parents, sisters, and brothers. Those weapons are disproportionately used to harm minorities. We also allow mental health issues to go unchecked and are more concerned over our freedom to own weapons than the freedom to live without fear of being killed. Our generation continues to allow mass shootings to go unchecked. Moreover, those with power seemingly care little about curtailing access to weapons of mass destruction.

So, my kid saw the news, now what? Listen, educate, and do what we can to encourage empathy and activism.

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