Q&A How & When Do You Share Disturbing News with Your Children?
After the Oregon shooting this week, a reader asked, “How and when do you share news like this with your children? I haven’t shared much “news” with my children but I have older ones and I want to expose them to more. What sources do you use or do you just pass the news to them?”
When we read the news yesterday about a mass shooting at an Oregon community college, and especially when we saw that Christians had been targeted, we had the same thought: Is this something we need to discuss with our children? For us, we make these decisions on a case by case basis. Here are our considerations:
Is this a situation our kids might face themselves? We have college kids and it’s possible. Now, of course, they all read the news and knew about it anyway, but we still probably want to bring it up to them and talk about it. Something like this, where people were asked if they were Christians and were shot in the head if they were, is bound to make anyone question the solidity of their faith, thinking, “Would I have the courage to claim Christ?”
Are they bound to hear about it anyway? If so, I would a whole lot rather they hear it from me first, in a loving and Biblical context. Here’s where you need to judge for your own family. Do you always have the news on? Will they overhear big siblings talking about it? Will they be at a friend’s or relative’s house where they’ll hear about it? If so, you need to bring it up yourself.
Is it news your family will need to act on? We had a talk about the hurricane and possible flooding yesterday because we need to make some preparations. Our youngest was very alarmed and had a hard time sleeping, even though we reassured her again and again. Nonetheless, she was bound to hear about it, better to do so in family discussion.
Can your child handle it? Some kids are just more worry-prone than others. Once we visited Yellowstone National Park and hiked up to see the mud volcanoes. Although most of our kids loved it, one of our children was so terrified by the experience, she freaked out at the word volcano for several years. Some kids just worry more than others and will need to be protected longer. We generally spare her hard news for now.
Is there a lesson in it? Recently a friend of a friend lost a child to “the choking game.” That’s when kids choke themselves to produce a high. We’ve known of several families whose children died from this foolishness, so we talked to our children about it. We left out the youngest, but discussed with our older kids how foolish it was to risk your life for a thrill or for anything not worth dying for. We talked about the grief and trauma they caused their families. We encouraged our kids to tell us, or another adult if we weren’t there, if any of their friends talked about doing something like this. It was a good lesson for them.
Are they ready to learn more about the world? As our children grow, we need to read and discuss the news with them. We bring up current events, show them videos, read them articles and we talk about them. After they have internet access and social media of their own, we watch for news stories they might see so that we can discuss them together and others to bring to their attention. One thing that has helped is our ongoing family chats. We have a secret family Facebook group we can share things in and discuss them together. We also have an ongoing family Skype chat that various of us post in as things come up.
Our goal is to protect our children when they are little and need it, but to also prepare them to become strong, independent adults. That means we want to introduce them to the hard things of life in a thoughtful way, giving them more filtering and more guidance when they’re young and less filtering and guidance as they grow in wisdom and grace.
How do you decide what to tell your kids about the news?
Hal & Melanie
For more on how to help your boys develop a godly character, get our book, Raising Real Men!