How can we as parents, teachers, mentors, and coaches help kids make sense of the world? Lately, the news has been full of horrific terrorist acts and natural disasters. It is easy to think, “What is the world coming to?” and feel helpless. If the news seems frightening to us, as adults, how must it seem to children and teens?
Here are five ways to help your children make sense of what is going on in the world:
- Watch the news with your children. It is very important to be aware of what is going on in the world, as informed citizens. The habit of staying informed should begin at a young age. Obviously, you, as a parent, will be the judge as to when you can have your children watch the news with you. I do not recommend watching the news during dinner, which is an excellent opportunity for conversation and discussions. I started watching the news with my children when they were around six or seven years old. If you have a DVR, you can record the news and skip over parts which might frighten or upset them. It is important to talk about the places where the news is taking place. It gives children a sense of geography and where they are in the world. I noticed that many children, even those in gifted classes, do not seem to know much about other countries outside of the U.S. and even less about other cultures. They lack empathy if an event does not directly affect them and have no sense of interconnectedness.
- Discuss the news to give context to different situations. It is important not to just turn the news on, but to discuss it with your children to provide context to certain problems in the world. If you are not sure of the context, it can be a great family activity to get on the internet and look up information on different conflicts in the world. News needs to be presented in perspective, so children feel safe.
- Make sure that you watch some positive news programs. Certain news programs are designed especially for children and teens. One is an online news program called “Here, There, and Everywhere News.” You can find it are htekidsnews.com. There is also CNN Students at www.cnn.com/studentnews which is appropriate for middle and high school students. CBS Sunday Morning is another uplifting news program.
- Discuss the news in your city and state to make the news “real”. Talk about the pros and cons of finding solutions to different challenges in your area. Discussions such as these help develop critical thinking skills.
- Promote volunteering to make a difference in areas where we can make a difference. Watching the news can make one feel helpless to improve the world situation. You may not be able to change the situation in the Middle East, but you can change your own world by volunteering, which creates empathy and can improve community relations. Kids can actually create some positive news in their community. So, instead of worrying what video game they are going to buy next or what they are going to buy at the mall, kids can focus on a volunteer project, which helps others. They will experience a feeling of increased self-esteem and accomplishment as well as meet other like-minded youth.
Original content by Kathleen Matchunis, B.A., M.S., Certified Professional Coach for parents and teens, Website: www.connectinginc.net Call Tel. 954 294 9708 for a complimentary coaching consultation!