One of the best things we can do when things feel out of control is to focus on something we can control. -Katie Kimball

113: 3 Questions to Ask Kids When the News is Scary

The news has had plenty of scary events over the last year (and let’s face it, the news isn’t exactly known for flowers and puffy clouds even before that).

At what age is it ok for kids to watch the news? How much should they know about the world?

Where’s the balance between information and protection, between safeguarding their innocence and helping them grow to be well-rounded adults?

Training our kids to be successful independent adults includes tech literacy.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like parenting in today’s technology driven world is like trying to learn a new game without the rule book.

In fact, technology has changed everything about parenting (almost), so we have to rewrite the rules.

It’s time to say goodbye to power struggles over screen time. I’d love to share what really works for my family as we attempt to balance screen time with real life!

GET THE SCREENTIME GUIDELINES

As a mom of 4 kids kindergarten through 10th grade, a trained elementary teacher, a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, and a dedicated thinking person, I hope my thoughts today are helpful to you as you make unprecedented parenting decisions.

I’d love to hear what you think – do you let your kids watch the news? What ages? What conversations have you had lately?

And it must be said – no politics, belittling, or judging here. Let’s just share stories to try to help others parent well.

Can’t see the video? Watch Explaining the News to Kids here on YouTube.

No time for the video? Here are the notes!

Discussing the News with Kids Video Time Stamps

  • 0:39: World events in the past year have been scary and anxiety-inducing for kids and adults alike. What can we do to teach our kids to evaluate the news and not let it control them with anxiety?

We don't want to scare them, but we can't completely bubble wrap our kids from world events. - Katie Kimball

  • 2:34: As parents, our job is to teach kids healthy habits for their minds, bodies, and spirits. How they interact with the news is part of that.
  • 3:08: We’re going to break down 3 questions that you can use with your kids to have quality conversations with your kids about current events.

Should Kids Watch the News?

  • 3:33: First a few prerequisites. Don’t let your children under high-school age watch the news. It is too much for them to process effectively. Even as adults it can cause anxiety, uncertainty, and require processing.
  • 5:05: After you’ve processed what is going on, you can choose when and how to share it with your kids. Use simple language, be concise, and age-appropriate.
  • 5:18: For kids in high-school, it’s a good idea for them to see some news. Watch together, discuss and listen to them processing it. This is part of the gradual acquisition of independence they need to do before they leave your home.
  • 6:10: Before you have a conversation about current events, get their hands busy. Color pictures, play with clay, build with blocks, or make something with beads. If you can’t do that, talk in the car with the radio off. More on how being creative with your hands helps you mentally process
  • 8:00: When news feels connected to your life, it’s generally more anxiety-inducing. It’s important that kids know how to process news so that they don’t connect with it personally in a negative way.

Explaining News to Kids

  • 8:30: The first question to ask once you’ve told your child what is happening is: how does that make you feel? We want them to have the opportunity to tell us if they’re worried or scared. Ask more questions to help them process their feelings.

We want our kids to know that scary things on the news, don’t have to be scary to their lives. They are usually not involved in that news story. -Katie Kimball

  • 11:29: The second question is: who made bad choices in this situation and why might they have done that? Often there are valid motivations for bad choices and bad choices on both sides of the story.  Those are the areas to explore more in-depth with older kids.
  • 13:02: I’m very firm that bad choices are never justified even if there was a good reason. We want them to empathize and understand motivation and reasoning, but not think that it’s ok to make bad choices. Good people can make bad choices for good reasons, and that’s still wrong.
  • 15:14: Thirdly, ask them if they have any questions. We can learn a lot about how our kids process information by listening to their questions. Internal processors or kids who tend to be anxious might not have any questions yet, but check in regularly because they probably will later.

Using Current Events to Teach Family Values

  • 16:32: For upper elementary kids and older there’s a bonus question: what can we do about this? Only ask this if you have an answer prepared ahead of time. Some examples are engaging in activism, praying together, or serving those in need.
  • 18:31: As parents, we are our children’s filter. I don’t trust the media on any side to filter events for my kids. It isn’t good for any of us to be watching hours of news media every day and exposed to everything as it unfolds.
  • 19:08: If you want to build the value of political activism, or service to your community, or prayer and faithfulness then now is your opportunity.
  • 19:48: We want to give our kids some layers of protection and tools against the anxiety that the news can provoke. We need to teach them how to think critically, process events, and be empathetic.

I had an excellent question come in via email that I just had to share with you guys!

You mentioned talking through/asking questions about if this bad thing was going to happen to us/them. Your example about the capitol building was great. But I am curious- what do you say if it is a school shooting or something that potentially COULD happen to them/affect them? My kids are still young, but we are rapidly approaching the age where I will need to talk about this sort of thing and I’m at a loss how to calm any potential fears over things like that.

Here’s how I answered her:

In my particular family, because we have faith in both the afterlife and the value of suffering, I would go 100% with a faith-based answer.

I would never point out that it could happen to them but start by making sure they understand that the actual incident was far away. If they asked about it happening in our school, first, a bit of logic about how yes, bad things happen everywhere, but it’s really really really rare.

Then, I’d remind them that even if one of our family members loses their physical life, we know that their eternal life is secure. And we might talk about how scary things give people an opportunity to be brave, be selfless, and help others. That seems like such a big topic for a kindergartener, for example, and it’s bringing tears to my eyes to even write this, but even at his age, I would encourage unbelievable courage, because I believe even little people have a lot to give.

I’ve done a few interviews recently on resilience, and how the healthiest, happiest, and most successful people know how to get through adversity. It’s so important to teach our kids not to be afraid of bad things or suffering but to be strong enough to meet challenges head-on and come out on the other side with our souls and joy intact.

Resources I Mentioned for Discussing the News with Kids

3 questions to help you in explaining the news to kids

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

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About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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