It’s not news to you that 7- and 8-year-olds have lots of questions about the world. “Why do tornadoes happen?” “Why does Becky live in a different neighborhood?” “Why are some people homeless?” At this age, children become increasingly aware of people and places beyond their immediate surroundings. As a result, they start to pick up on world events overheard on the playground, or from the television or Internet. While you may wonder how to respond to such inquiries, there is no such thing as an “off-limits” news topic, and there are many benefits to introducing current events to young children.
Start by discussing topics that relate to your child’s interests. A dinosaur fan, for example, may be excited to hear about a paleontological dig. Talking about positive, “child-centered” stories will lead to more engaging discussions and help develop your child’s ability to listento and synthesize information. As these skills grow, she will be able to participate in conversations about any topic.
As another entry point, bring up issues that directly affect your community. Doing so will allow your child to connect stories with the people and places he already knows. Discussing local news also gives you an opportunity to lend a helping hand: You might discuss a story about pollution, for example, and then do cleanup at a local park.
When it comes to addressing tough topics, we sometimes assume children want to know more than they actually do. For example, you may be tempted to address gang violence when talking about a local shooting. But it could be that all your child needs to know is the basics: that the assailant is in custody and that the injured are receiving treatment. Let your child’s questions be the guide.
TIP: Honor all sides. Discussing world events is a good way to share your family values and viewpoints. However, it’s also important to explain that there are different ideas out there, as well. This helps your child to understand the variety of belief systems he may encounter.
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