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Moms Talk: Talking to Your Kids about the News

What do you talk about and how much information do you share about tragic news events?

Welcome to Moms Talk, a forum for local parents to express themselves on a hot button issue. This week, we've all weathered the questions about September 11 and it may have given you pause. What do you share, and how much do you tell your children about tragedies in the news? Moms Talk take: listen to the radio.

Jane Hamel: I pretty much go by Kim John Payne's idea (in Simplicity Parenting) that young kids really don't need to have access to the news. My 5- and 2-year olds certainly don't hear news stories, although spending most of the summer with NPR has nearly done me in. My 9-year old picks stuff up in school and so we do talk about major events: the tsunami in Japan was a big one, the tornadoes in the midwest last year, elections. She's mostly concerned with her safety, the likelihood of something like that happening here.

We try to use the opportunity to review our family's emergency plan, and can generally assure her that this type of disaster is unlikely to happen here.  he also sets aside some of her allowance each week for donating, and she sometimes chooses to contribute to a disaster relief fund somewhere. As she is getting older, we are also beginning to talk with her about more concrete ways to support relief efforts. We want her to know that as the kids get older, our family will be spending more of our time helping people who need it. Whether that be hosting victims of disasters, traveling to stricken areas to help with clean-up or rebuilding, or other efforts. By focusing on ways to help, ways we keep our own family as safe as we can, and the hard work of our fire/police officers, we try to help her see the news through a more hopeful lens.

Jane is the mother of a 2-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy, and a 9-year-old girl.

Tiffany Reevior: We never watch TV news, so there's a lot my son doesn't get exposed to that way. I'm a lifetime NPR listener, though, and when my son was very young, I struggled a lot with how much to listen when he was in the room, particularly since there was frequent news about bombings and people being killed. I often just turned off the news when headlines and disturbing stories came on. When we got the newspaper, I flipped the page around if there were disturbing photos I didn't want him to see. I felt like, at his young age, it was hard for him realize most of the horrible news happened very far away from us and wasn't a threat to him.

Now that he's older, I've started leaving the radio on a bit more and answering his questions about what he hears. This past week, we've talked a few times about 9/11. I'll continue to monitor the news carefully and certainly be nearby to answer questions as he has them.

Tiffany is mom to a 7-year-old and has lived in Medford since 2007.

Judi McLaughlin: For my two, the visual medium is more disturbing, hence we tend to listen to the news on NPR. What I like about NPR's coverage is that they will preface if a segment will be disturbing/inappropriate for some listeners, and I take that cue seriously (even when I'm driving alone!).

I also ask my kids if they have heard about certain topics that have been on the forefront of media coverage. An example from the recent past is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. They knew that one of the astronauts was a woman and a teacher, but not much else. I described what happened, emphasizing that this disaster is an exception not a rule. Hence lies the key: news coverage is largely a discussion of life's exceptions, not its rules. For me, that is the most important message to impart to my chlidren. Otherwise, we would never leave the house.

I write this as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looms. I have not had the courage to discuss 9/11 with my children, except to ask them what they know about it. Thus far, nothing. 

Judi McLaughlin is the mother of two girls, ages 8 and 6, and has lived in Medford for 11 years. She blogs on Gluten-Free living as for the Patch.

Nancy Quinn: I am guilty of keep my 5-year old away from the news as much as possible. If she overhears something that I think is disturbing - I tell her there are bad people in the world and that we do our best to avoid them.

Nancy is the mother of a 5- and 2-year old, and has lived in Medford for seven years.

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