The images from Ferguson, Oakland, and even downtown LA have been violent this week. Moreover, the issue being protested is controversial, complex and, for many, it's terribly sad. Digesting all the news is hard enough, but talking about it can be a bigger challenge. When it comes to the children in your life, experts have specific guidance.
Babies should not have any exposure whatsoever to disturbing news, according to Diane Levin, Ph.D. who co-authored "Teaching Young Children in Violent Times." She told PBS, "[B]abies are much more attuned to what's going on around them than we often realize. So if the TV news is on, and you get upset, your child will pick up on your feelings." Preschoolers mix up fact and fantasy so can be scared easily by seemingly far away problems. Plus, if they're in preschool, they might learn about disturbing news from their friends. Parents should be watchful of nightmares and anxiety during times disturbing news is ubiquitous. For elementary schoolers, experts recommend listening or reading news reports rather than TV, except for truly disturbing news which should not be turned on at all. For more guidance, visit PBS: Talking with Kids about News.
What about discussing issues of racism with young ones? And what about speaking with fellow grown-ups when there is the potential for disagreement, especially over Thanksgiving tables? How have you been handling conversations - in real life and online - about Ferguson?
Betsy Brown Braun, child development and parenting expert; best-selling author of Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents (HarperCollins); betsybrownbraun.com