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How Do We Talk to Our Kids About Scary Things?

How do we talk to our kids about scary things? This is a question on all of our minds.

Life just does not seem to be letting up. Having survived two years of the pandemic in lockdown, now we are talking about war, inflation, and more uncertainty. So the question is, how do we talk to our kids about scary things?

My oldest is nearly 15, a freshman in high school and my youngest is just six years old. Each of my kids manifests anxiety in different ways. But none of them have escaped anxiety’s tight grip. So when world events are prolonged and scary I need to be mindful of what I share. I need to consider when I share and through what mechanism they learn. For example, in Texas, the Governor and Attorney General have moved to categorize providing affirming care to transgender children as child abuse. While I write about it on my blog it is not a dinner table conversation in our home. In fact, it is not a conversation we have at all.

Leaders across the globe are hellbent on denying basic human rights. Whether it be here at home by redlining voting districts or flat out making it harder for people to vote. Denying access to bathrooms, sports, and medical care to transgender children. Globally, Russia invading and bombing Ukrainian citizens out of their homes in an effort to take over their country. Each of these events can be stressful for our children and we must be mindful of their exposure.

https://www.aap.org/en/advocacy/child-and-adolescent-healthy-mental-development/aap-aacap-cha-declaration-of-a-national-emergency-in-child-and-adolescent-mental-health/

Whether your kids are six, sixteen, or twenty-six it is important to think before we talk. As a cis gender, heterosexual human, I have never had my fundamental human rights encroached upon. As a white woman, I do not see the world through the eyes of a person who, from birth, faces discrimination. Being raised in a home with plenty of food and a roof over my head, I have never seen the world through the eyes of poverty, immigration, or refugee.

Seeing the world through the eyes of my transgender child has been a radical awakening. Being subject to continuous hate speech and emboldened leaders blatantly introducing discriminatory legislation has been exhausting. Local parent groups getting violent at our county board of education meetings, threatening to erase the actual lived experience of millions of humans in our country takes its toll.

I ask you to consider carefully how and when you allow your children to learn about current events. This does not mean I believe in censoring reality from our children. I ask that you first PAUSE and think about the impact the information might have on the children around you when talking at the bus stop in the morning or at a neighborhood party.

When all is said and done we must comfort and remind our children that they will be okay. Good people are working for change, to protect them and their community. These people are not just police and firefighters. They are parents and teachers who affirm our children in the classroom. They are those on the fringes who challenge the status quote and seek to learn, listen, and then educate for change. Those who stand up and testify and contribute when they cannot do the heavy lifting. So, how do we talk to our kids about scary things> Ultimately we must remind our children what Mr. Rodger’s said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

― Fred Rogers