The events of this last weekend in Paris have again brought the darkness of the human heart into the airwaves and onto just about every screen. This can become a challenging time for parents. You want to watch the news, but some of the images and content is so troubling that you feel like you need to shield your young children from it. Sometimes those children walk through the room unannounced! What to do?
Here are a few critical issues to consider when thinking about how much you should share with your child:
- Know your Child
Don't give them more than they can bear (unless it is unavoidable). Young children really have no concept of what is going on. If you show them the TV when terrible things are happening, they have trouble understanding that these events are happening far, far away. One of our girls was scared that some terrorist attack in the Middle East might have caused harm to their father (me) who was away on a business trip in Phoenix. "Daddy's visiting the desert!" You can answer questions if and when they ask, but again, provide the details in a way that they can understand. Also, remember when you share these details to pray for innocent people who have been harmed.
- Older Children Need to Know About These Things
Last night I called my 10th and 8th grade daughters down to watch a news broadcast with me. They are growing up in a world where wicked people are doing wicked things. They need to be ready to understand what is going on and what our leaders are doing. Too many parents, particularly with their oldest children, try to shield them from the world and from bad news. Again, know your particular child, but preparation and thoughtfulness is something that can only happen if they know what is going on. Also, make sure that you set aside some time to explain the news to them. They probably have questions that the reporter is not going to answer (like: "Why would anyone do something like this?"). You need to provide those answers. To do this, you need to know the news and you need to know what you believe. Be prepared!
- For Middle Children: You should be a Filter
High schoolers and some Middle Schoolers should watch the news broadcasts and should analyze the reports thoughtfully. A fully formed young adult should be able to flip back and forth between FOX and MSNBC and explain why they look at events so differently. Young children should get basic details and be shielded from the graphic stuff. Older grammar schoolers and some Middle Schoolers are not ready for the news broadcast. They need to get the news through you. Know this: if you don't talk with them, their friends will. Be general and vague when you need to, but help them to see what so many of our leaders miss: evil is really working in the world. Wicked men do wicked things.
This recipe will not end all questions and it will cause some problems. These issues and problems are ones that you need to face as parents and ones that your children will be better prepared to face the real world with courage and strength.