How to help them (and yourself) stay informed on world happenings
By Gabby Cushman
At the rate we consume media nowadays, you’d have to try hard to avoid learning about current events. Whether through a social media app, late-night talk show, or even texting with a friend, you’re likely to encounter a news topic you may or may not have been familiar with.
This goes for your little ones as well.
If they’re online, interact with peers at school, or even see television and print ads out in the world, they’re likely to encounter news at a similar rate. Although it can feel like you don’t have much control over what your little ones are learning, you can make sure to have these conversations with them yourself so you’re in the loop on what ideas they might be forming on current events. Even if they haven’t encountered specific news stories yet, talking about important ones together can reinforce the core social justice lessons you’ve gone over and how they appear in these situations.
That said, it’s not as easy as just sitting down and talking to your kids. Here are five tips for approaching conversations about complex current events with children:
Assume what you’re seeing, they’re also seeing
Especially if they’re active online, kids are just as likely to come across news on their favorite websites as adults are. TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and even the Snapchat discover page will contain posts about serious events worldwide. And if your little ones aren’t active online, one of their peers likely is, or they can overhear the adults in their lives discussing current events amongst each other. It’s not safe to assume that certain news stories you see will not make an appearance in their day-to-day life. Therefore, if you learn about a significant event happening in the world, think about how you might bring up the topic with your children, so you’re prepared in case they have already heard about it from somewhere else.
Start with the core social justice issues involved
Current events may at their core trace back to different social justice issues you may already be discussing with your little ones. Since these happenings are often complex and could be difficult for younger kids to understand, start by highlighting what social justice topics are involved. For instance, there are currently protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old girl who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her hijab “correctly” and passed away while in custody. Many women in these protests are burning their hijabs, cutting their hair, or even shaving their heads completely to show their demand for self-agency and control over their bodies.
If you wanted to bring this up with your kids, you could start by checking their understanding of bodily autonomy or the phrase “My body, my choice.” This can be traced back to the fight for reproductive rights in the United States right now, or even your children's rights to decide what they feel comfortable wearing that day. When they understand why it’s crucial to have control over your own body, they’ll better understand why some people feel so passionate about this issue. Of course, it’s also important to remember that we cannot break down most current events into one core social justice issue. Situational context and potential intersections with other social issues should not be ignored, so be sure you’re continuing the conversation from here.
Practice researching an event together
There may be some ongoing stories in the news cycle that both you and your children need to be better informed on. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t completely understand every current event, and it doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation about them with your kids. Take the opportunity to tell them, “I’m not sure I know enough about this topic to explain everything to you, but we can research it together and see what we learn.”
This can also serve as a way to show them how to gather information from different perspectives and discern reliable information from fake news. Ask your little ones what questions they have about what’s happening, and even share what questions you want to look into yourself. Researching current events together will show your kids how they can independently gather trustworthy information about these topics.
Determine what details may need to be excluded
Although it’s important to be as transparent as possible when teaching your kids about something, you will know if there are details better off shielded from them. You don’t want this experience to turn into something scary or stressful from their perspective. Think about what they’re equipped to handle based on their age, emotional sensitivity, and understanding of the world. Typically, you can discuss the grim details of an event with a teenager who is more aware of what’s actually going on. However, you will want to leave any violent details out when discussing the topic with an elementary school-aged child because it could cause a lot of fear for them. You know your little ones better than anyone else and can make an informed decision on what they’re ready to hear about concerning current events.
Be sure to share good news along with the bad
As adults, we know how constantly hearing bad news can impact our mental health. Along with recognizing when we need to set boundaries around our news consumption, it can also be beneficial to share the good news with your kids as often as you share more serious stories. Take time to actively seek out positive things to tell your little ones about. It’s important to remind them and ourselves that despite systemic oppression and inequity affecting people worldwide, there are moments of positive change that we can take some time to celebrate. I personally follow an Instagram account called @so.informed that usually posts breakdowns on different social issues, and they always dedicate one post a week to good news happening worldwide. It’s a good idea to find a source of good news to help keep yourself and your little ones from feeling hopeless when discussing more harmful current events.
Keeping kids knowledgeable about current events will teach them to be informed members of society as they grow up and significantly impact the world around them. Some circumstances will always be challenging to explain to young children; however, that doesn’t mean you should avoid the conservation altogether. Using these tips, you can ensure you’re approaching these discussions prepared and confident in your actions.
Want a guided set of steps on how to approach any difficult current event issue with your little ones? Grab the Little Justice Leaders guide here.