Current Events: How Much Should I Share With My Kids?

Ebola. Syria. Ferguson. Robin Williams.

I’ll admit, lately I have trouble watching or listening to the news. Everything seems so devastatingly dark and depressing. Of course, I want to be aware of what’s going on around the world, but it’s sometimes difficult as an adult and parent to digest it all. I can only imagine how shootings, riots, kidnappings, and suicides might appear to a child.

And much of this terrible world news deals with children, which makes it even harder to watch it. Like all mothers, I feel a particular discomfort with anything child-related, whether it’s the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria or the beheading of James Foley, who although grown was someone’s son.

I’ve found as the news worsens, I compartmentalize my emotions. I allow myself to feel fear, sadness, disgust — then put those emotions aside and come back to a place of hopefulness and optimism — for my own sake and most of all for my children.

My kids just entered third grade and are at a stage where they should be exposed to current events. I want them to be conscious of what’s happening for many reasons — so they learn to be compassionate, responsible, charitable, inquisitive, and so they appreciate their own lives which are blessed with health, shelter, food, and freedom.

As my kids grow older and able to handle more “real world” stuff, I’ve begun struggling with how much news to share with them… and how best to do it. I’ve started to tell them more about what’s happening around the world, always watching carefully to see what their reactions are.

The day Foley was murdered, I picked them up from school feeling deeply sad in a way I couldn’t shake. I told them so. When they asked why, I said an American journalist had been killed, though I left out the horrific details. I explained I was sad because he was simply trying to do his job and tell stories of what was happening in the world; he did not deserve to be killed.

It’s a delicate balance to get a story across truthfully yet with the right filters. I don’t want my kids to be frightened or haunted by the news, though the day will come when they encounter something they have to make sense of on their own.

For now, I pick and choose a handful of headlines each week and discuss them over dinner or as we’re doing homework. I also try to balance the bad news with good. For every depressing thing in the world, there is an inspiring one; for every killing there is a kindness.

Wanting to take things a step further, I researched online kids’ news which turned up a bunch of light, semi-educational fare. The norm on newsy sites for youngsters includes stories like: “Giant Rubber Duck Invades Los Angeles” or “Hunters Capture 1,000-pound Gator.” Many have a heavy emphasis on history and geography, while others focus on outrageous stories about glow-in-the-dark sharks or the Superman Comic Book that sold for $3.2 million.

The one site I found that did have a more geo-political bent was Youngzine, and it’s worth checking out.

I also asked a friend how she handled news with her daughter who is homeschooled. Kelley King is a Los Angeles-based art director and founder of Cultural Curricula. She’s a goldmine of great resources for kids. “Meals in our family are times to enjoy food and company as well as to catch up on the events in everyone’s day and in the news,” she said. “We read Newsademic, an international newspaper for kids, every day and it often provides interesting material to discuss. My husband and I love the articles because they include background info that proves helpful for understanding the context of events (and is often missing from adult newspapers). Our child loves Newsademic because of the fascinating and varied topics. The news isn’t dumbed down, but is filtered thoughtfully, so very rarely will I chose not to share an article [because of sensitive material] with our daughter. The writing is smart and the articles are wide ranging in subject matter, so it’s absorbing to adults and kids alike.”

News, however you choose to define it, is a thought-provoking topic and one that becomes more of an issue as your kids get older and need to be socially and politically aware. Do you share current events with your kids? If so, how much is too much?

For now, I’ll continue to ease my children into the overwhelming world of politics, war, and famine, as well as heroism, bravery, charity, and peace-making… and I’ll remember that the best remedy for a rough day of news is to give my kids an extra hug at night and hold them close.

Photo: Getty