How to Talk to Your Kids About the World Today
A horrible loss of life has highlighted the racism that sadly still exists in our country, and against the backdrop of COVID, the frustration and anger triggered a few in our society to become violent. We are in very sad and chaotic time with so many emotions and thoughts flowing through us all, including sadness, confusion, frustration, fear, anxiety and worry.
Children are incredibly perceptive and notice everything. Even if you are not verbalizing the emotions you are feeling, chances are your child is picking up on it. I know many of you are worried about the psychological wellbeing of your children, and the purpose of this email is to help you manage your direct and indirect communications with your children to insure they are not psychologically harmed by what is happening. Hopefully, we can even help them grow to become more compassionate and understanding human beings.
Below is the guidance from some brilliant child therapists to whom I spoke.
1) Children under 4-5 years (depending on their social/psychological maturity) may not have the capacity to process what is going on, and discussion of this information (even as you are scanning your phone) may cause them more harm than good. It is best to avoid exposing them to this information. This includes watching the news in front of them. What you communicate is not just through the words you use. If you are in a state of whatever intense emotion, chances are your child is seeing it and picking it up. If possible, try to push those emotions out when you are around your child and be as present as you can be without the emotions overriding you in that moment. If you are unable to clear these emotions, distraction is another option. Reading books is a great option. Playing or even doing household chores is another option. While I am not a fan of media, exposing them to age-appropriate media or even watching a funny movie together is another option, and possibly a lesser evil than having your thoughts/emotions in this unusual time transfer.
2) Discussions of the tragedy that has taken place must also be balanced with your child feeling safe in their world. Before anything else, please create a sense of safety and demonstrate personal power both verbally and non-verbally. For those who are not experiencing intense anxiety or fear, but you suspect your child is for whatever reason, you can use phrases like, “We have done everything that needs to be done to be safe.” “We will be safe, I assure you. We can call the police and they will come immediately to protect us.” Invite their questions and thoughts. Ask your older child what he/she thinks needs to be done to be safe. If you are feeling intense anxiety or fear, acknowledge it. Your child already knows it is there. Ignoring it may cause more harm than good. You can use phrases like, “Everybody’s nervous and anxious, but that does not mean we are not safe. Given what is going on, it is okay to be nervous or anxious.” Reiterate that you are all going to be safe. One great child psychologist Azita Sach is hosting an online meeting today at 11AM to answer your questions around these topics. If you missed the meeting, you are welcome to post questions to her page and she will respond.
3) Once a foundation of safety has been created, you can then have the discussion of why the protests happened in the first place. There are many wonderful articles below that get into these discussions in detail:
Trevor Noah has posted a great video which can help you understand how to articulate the reason for the anger behind what is happening. https://youtu.be/v4amCfVbA_c
I will do my best to keep providing you resources to keep you and your family safe at every level. Let me know if I can be of any help.
I wish you all health. We will get through this – together… Hang in there..