The question of whether or not to inform your young children about current affairs is a very personal question and one that you should always ask your self when it comes to your children. Initially, your reaction might be that you want your “kids to be kids,” meaning you want them to live in innocence and remain blissfully ignorant to the realities of society and not burden them with knowledge they are not prepared nor mature enough to process and understand.
The main reason you should decide to talk to them about current affairs was because you should be the one to help guide them in their understanding of what’s going on. You need to be the one to principally shape their ideas about the world around them rather than strangers who do not necessarily share the same value system or beliefs as my family. Approaching these conversations is not always easy, because if you are a “deep thinker”, you might have to do some probing to get the conversation going.
Here are a few ways to approach current affairs conversations with young children;
Practice the Conversation
Think about what you want to say before you actually speak to your children. Talk to close friends with children about what you want to say and even “practice” the conversation with your friends before speaking to the kids.
Find the Right Time
This might be after dinner, during bath time or while making the next day’s lunch. The “right-time” is a time and place where your children can be the centre of your attention and where outside distractions are limited.
Ask Them What They Know Already
For example, when the police shoot another innocent person, a bomb is set off in another town or a politician makes another abhorrent remark, ask them “What have you heard about this? What do you think about this?” Then listen fully before jumping in.
Tell the Truth
Explain the facts as you understand them. With young children, you do not need to go into graphic detail just give enough information so they understand the message you are trying to convey. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Sometimes the best and only answer to the question is “I don’t know.”
Share Your Feelings with Your Child
Don’t be fooled and think your children don’t know what is going on with you. They are constantly watching you and taking their cues from you. Therefore, it is okay, and good even, to acknowledge your feelings with your children. By sharing your feelings with them, your children get a chance to see that even though upset, you can pull yourself together and continue on. This is an important lesson for them in facing upsets and disappointments in their own lives.
When the conversation ends, reassure your children that you will do everything you can to keep them safe and informed. Reassure them that you are always there and open to answer any questions or to talk about this topic (and others) again in the future. Finally and most importantly, reassure them that they are loved.
Through discussion of these topics, children develop an awareness of local and global events. It aids in critical thinking where they exercise competencies to become reflective learners. They may also surprise you with their sensitivity and compassion in approaching different topics. The discussion about current affairs provides children with opportunities to share their feelings, thoughts and impression about events happening around them. It also nurtures a proactive sense of responsibility that their small act of let’s say recycling will contribute to a positive change in the environment. Current affairs is a wonderful platform to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world they live in, while at the same time develop an appreciation for language.
However, some children are too young to understand. Children develop at different rates and they may exhibit different levels of understanding and participation during Current Affairs. 4 year olds are capable of appreciating simple news on celebrations and straightforward topics. Older children are able to handle more difficult and negative news that border destruction and death, be it natural and man-made.
When handled with sensitivity, children will not react adversely to such stories. It brings out their innate feelings of kindness, helpfulness and righteousness.