Talking With Children About the News

For the past two years, COVID-19, the American political transition, and now the war in Ukraine has dominated the headlines. At Gateway, we support appropriate conversations about these topics as they come up in student conversations or as part of our curriculum. As these conversations may also come up at home, I’ve listed a few resources you might find helpful.

What to Say to Kids When the News Is Scary from NPR begins by suggesting that caregivers limit children’s exposure to news. Sometimes we may need to turn off the news, whether on TV, radio, or computer when we are with our children. Giving children developmentally appropriate facts but not overloading them with information can help them process what they hear. When things are happening far away, it can be helpful to show where things are happening on a map so that children can see that the events are not nearby. 

How Do We Talk To Kids About Scary Times? from the Housemann Institute shares 12 tips for discussing challenging topics. The article makes some of the same points as the NPR piece, such as avoiding labeling a group of people as all bad or all good. Another useful insight is that it’s okay to not have answers and to share that with a child. You can always talk with your child later once you have accurate information and are ready to share it in a developmentally appropriate way.

Explaining the News to Our Kids from Common Sense Media gives a set of tips for talking with kids at different ages (under the age of seven, 8-12-year-olds, and teens) so that you can frame your conversations based on your child’s developmental stage. Regardless of your child’s age, one of the most reassuring and powerful things you can do is to take action together, whether it’s writing to politicians, assembling care packages, or donating time and resources.

We’ve all been through a lot these past few years and many of us are still processing our feelings. Letting your children know that you may need more time before you can talk will reinforce your worthiness as a trusted adult. In addition, your vulnerability can help model the complex, healthy inner emotional life that can be helpful for children to see. Children are resilient and benefit from the social-emotional learning Gateway weaves throughout their curriculum. As a caregiver, you know that the ability to regulate our emotions while supporting theirs is important as they formulate their response to the world around them.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher, advisor, Assistant Head of School Hannah Wikse, Middle School Division Head Melanie Munir, or me if you have any questions or want further resources.

Warmly,

Dr. Zachary Roberts, Head of School