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How to Talk to Your Kids About Our Complex World

Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:45 AM

Recent news events—from the election to protests to heated debates—are not only affecting adults but children as well. It’s important that parents or other trusted adults help children make sense of the complex world around them. Lindsay Uzunlar, MD, NorthShore pediatrician, offers advice on how parents can help.

Talking to child about our complex world

  • Take care. Let children know they are safe both with words and your behavior. Children look to parents and authority figures for cues on how to react to a situation. If you’re feeling anxious or worried, make sure to process and seek support for your own feelings so that you can better provide comfort to your children. 
  • Watch children closely. Some children, especially younger ones, might not express their anxieties with words but might exhibit signs of stress or worry like changes in behavior, sleep and appetite. 
  • Allow children to ask questions. Children will move at a pace and level of discussion that is comfortable for them. It will also be an indicator to you of how much they need or are developmentally prepared to know—especially if they hear what kids are saying at school, on television and though social media. Sometimes your child might want to talk about the same question or concern multiple times, listen with open ears each and every time. Let your child know that you are here. 
  • Keep it simple and direct. Especially for younger kids. Older children will want more information and detail. Share your feelings about the election outcome. And regardless of your political beliefs, be positive and reassuring and instill in your kids a sense of hope for the future. 
  • Share your values and beliefs. It’s important to stress how you as a family treat others. Teach your children to be kind, gracious and respectful to everyone, even to those who disagree with you. 
  • Bullying is unacceptable. Your child may be the victim of bullying or discrimination at school, or see it happening to others. Reassure them they deserve to feel and be safe in their schools, homes and communities. If children are bullied, encourage them to tell a trusted adult like a parent or teacher.  
  • Believe in the human spirit. It’s important to participate as a family in healthy, productive activities that reflect your values. Have your kids volunteer at an organization whose mission is dedicated to a worthy cause. Encourage your children to come up with ideas. This will give them a sense of responsibility and purpose; build character and integrity; and create positive feelings of helping their fellow human being.