10 Tips on Discussing a Screwed Up World with Kids
Do you have children? How do you talk to them when something like a mass shooting happens? What about a robbery in your neighborhood? Do you talk about nuclear weapons? If you are like most parents, you don’t know where to start. Here’s 10 tips that you can use to talk to your kids about our screwed up world:
Young Kids – Ages 2 to 6
Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow” which means we can restrict what information they have access to. No mobile phones, no tablets, no TV news or conversations in the house or others homes on topics to intense for young kids. We ask questions before we send them to others homes and tell them our requirements.
Don’t Expose Them – Don’t watch adult-themed shows until they are in bed.
Don’t Bring it Up – It’s also recommended that you don’t even bring it up…unless, for some reason, they bring it up to you. If you do have to talk to them about it, keep it simple.
Tell Them You are Safe – If you do have to address a situation like this, make sure that you tell your kids that they are safe. Give them a hug and assure them.
Older Children – Age 7 to 12
Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow”. Don’t give me a BS excuse “I already gave my 11 year old a mobile phone and he has a TV in his bedroom. Stop the madness and start parenting.
Talk to Them if They Talk to You – For older kids, you should talk to them about these incidents, but only if they know about the event. Tell them that you would love to talk about it with them.
Listen – Talking it out is only one part of this. You also have to be a good listener. Ask them questions, too, such as what they heard, how they know about the incident, and how they feel about it.
Be Honest – When dealing with tweens, you should make sure that the truth comes from you, not from their friends nor the television or internet. You don’t have to go into great detail, and you should explain it in a way they will understand, i.e. explaining that the mass shooter/terrorist/predator etc likely is mentally ill.
Discuss the Media – It’s likely that kids this age will get information from the media, but make sure they know that the media likes to sensationalize things to get people’s attention.
Assume They Know – Teens likely know that an event has happened, but don’t assume that they have the whole story. They often get their news from friends or social media, and that information is often incomplete.
Engage Them in Conversation – Talking it out can help teens come to terms with these incidents.
Give Them Hope – Finally, give your teenager hope that things will be alright. A lot of teens are focused on the dark side of things, so make sure to bring in a bright light.
No matter their age, engage their schools administration. Most schools have systems in place to deal with and discuss tragic events based on the age and grades of the students. Often, parents will feel better that their schools have a good handle on these discussions. But it’s also up to the parents to put it out there, to let the schools know what the parents expect.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.
Here’s an addendum to the Young Kids advice: don’t deny it happened, but rather make it relatable.
September 2001: my 4-year-old couldn’t be shielded from the horror that was on practically every cable channel, in newspapers (they were still around), and on everyone’s lips. So we told him there was a fire in a huge building, and that while many people were saved by firefighters, many died when the building collapsed. It was a perfect sound bite for a 4-year-old: it was understandable and he could digest it.
Year after year, we added more to the story until he was old enough to understand the anniversary coverage.