Should we protect our children from distressing news?
Following the atrocities in Paris, Neha, a member of Babychakra Moms community, put up this question on a social networking site. A very valid question! A question that would pop up in the mind of all moms at some point in time. Well there is no RIGHT answer to this one but here's my take on the topic:
Firstly, if your child is below 5 years of age, these topics are better not discussed with them at all. I personally feel children under 5 are too young to understand and absorb any such negative piece of information.
The best way is to avoid exposing your child to any media coverage on such ghastly news. (Especially TV, as audio visual inputs really stay on for long in the minds of our little ones)
Once the child is 5 plus, one may want to very subtly pass on the news to the child (not of course, stating all facts or details) like a brief news bulletin. There are two reasons one may want to do that:
1. General knowledge.
Exposing the child to what is happening around us. Usually on weekends, I sit with my son and read the daily. At times, we do read on some news headlines together, but am very particular that they are very generic ones.
Gradually one can build on their child's appetite. News like terrorist attacks, natural calamities can also be passed on to the child, however, it needs to be done very carefully. As a parent, if you sense any kind of tension building up in your child, understand his sensitivity and STOP! Tweak the news, make it light and don't mention about the same again for a while.
2. Preparing the child for the worst!
Considering the state of world affairs, no city is safe and accidents and unfortunate events can happen at any point in time in any of our lives. Obviously we don't want to petrify our tiny angels with such news but we may want to prepare them for the worst. One never knows what's in store for tomorrow. Again it's a personal choice.
I am a parent to a 7 year old, and this is what I did:
The other day while I was reading the paper, I saw my son (who had just woken up) peeping very inquisitively at the images in the paper. (A girl with flowers and candles outside the French embassy, Hotel Taj on fire and Kasab with a gun)
Motherly instincts told me he was ready to be exposed to the big news.
I started off by telling him about the Taj hotel attacks which happened a few years ago when he was very small. His grandparents were stuck in a hotel very close to the Taj, and gradually weaved it all in a story and passed on the news to him. Summed it up by giving him a feeler about a similar incident happening in Paris minus the details, knowing he would get affected and scared.
At the end of it all, he, very categorically pointed at Kasab and asked me, "what happened to him?". I told him that the police punished him by hanging him for doing something so bad. (Well I am not sure what he understood by the term 'hanging' as his next question was 'till when was he kept there hanging?';))
Well coming back to Neha's question, yes, we as parents, need to be selective and protective while passing on any distressing news to our child. After all, who knows a child better than his parents!
To also read about, How to talk about Death with children
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