Discussing bad news with kids


We published this column in 2013 and it's still as relevant today as it was then. 

I’m trying, really. I’m really trying hard not to read the news or give my child a life that’s free of bad news. But, it cannot be ignored any longer.

Growing up, my parents were addicted to the news. Back then it was the nightly news bulletins. Nowadays, I have 24-hour news channels to contend with, the internet and an always-on access point to the world beyond our front door.

And, I have to. I need to keep informed about the world around us, because one day – I’ll need to explain it to my kid. One of the best ways for me to do that is to watch the news with her. At school, they regularly discuss current affairs and talk about how what happens “out there” has an effect on their lives. I’m glad for this sense of interaction – making news relevant to a child’s life helps them to understand the why and how of the way the world works.

The only thing is – the news isn’t always pretty. I can’t look forward to a good evening news bulletin that’ll show world peace, or people uniting to celebrate puppies or suchlike, or even highlight how someone cured cancer, forever.

Take our poll: Do you let your kids watch the news? 

I can’t show her the news that I want to – but I can show her the news that’s relevant. I’m selective, and through that, I make sure that there’s no way she reads or hears about news that isn’t somehow relevant to her life. She cares, quite deeply about the rhino crisis, and wildlife, so I’ll often make sure she is up to date on any newsworthy story related to animals.

But then, there are the big events. The global shakes and the scary disasters – they’re relevant because they change our world. Sometimes they are all too awful for even I to bear. And then I’m stuck – I want my child to grow up informed, but not harmed by current affairs. I want her to have a good grasp on the world around us, but not live in fear of it.

It’s for that reason that I don’t tell her about gory situations, or I skip past the details where the scary parts lie. I always try to juxtapose awful news with uplifting stories. So, yes, when a natural disaster occurs, I am the one who is desperately trying to find out how the pets were rescued, and reunited with their families. I always make an effort to focus on overcoming a disaster, rather than the minutiae of the disaster.

Also read: Kids react to European crisis

Lastly, and this is what I find has been most crucial – always tell the truth. That doesn’t mean I need to include all the information available to us relating to a news story, but it does mean I can communicate with my kid about the news, openly. Sometimes, this means stripping a situation down to its bare facts, and sometimes it means making sure I can find a positive outcome to a situation. Either way – the truth needs to always shine.

Do you talk to your kids about the awful things that happen on the news? Send your feedback to chatback@parent24.com.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 686 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 3745 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 799 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.