The terrible incidences of social injustice; pandemics that seemingly come out of nowhere; the rise in covid-related hate-crime; the impact of covid on mental health, the economy (gas prices), healthcare, and employment; the increase in family homelessness; the extinction of bees, birds, fish, and some mammals; catastrophic floods, fires, rainstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes; the melting of polar ice caps; the lack of civil discourse and political incursion; and the horrors of modern warfare really make us wonder. It’s scary enough to make us ask, “Is this the end?” If the world is scary for adults, it must be terrifying for kids, especially those who think you can die and get right back up like a cartoon character.
While as a parent your first inclination may be to keep your child from hearing about these terrible things, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually find out about them. Kids learn about things from siblings and other family members; friends and friends’ parents and/or siblings; TV news, kids’ shows, cartoons, etc.; streaming TV; and social media (i.e. YouTube, Tik Tok, Snap Chat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). No matter how much you may want to protect your child, eventually the news is right there on the screen in front of them, frighteningly, blaringly loud, in color, and in a video they can replay over and over.
But there are some things you can do to help your child cope with their fear…..
While we don’t want to scare our child, we can’t exactly avoid teaching them about the scary things they should avoid like strangers on the street and on social media; fire and matches; wild animals; playing in traffic; swimming without a buddy; substance use and other risky behaviors; and a multitude of other things. But we should also teach them the world is basically a good, decent, safe place for them and we will do everything in our power to keep it that way. That’s our job as parents.
Explain to your child “all men are created equal”, no matter who they are; what they are; or what they look like. Being different is not a crime. It doesn’t make someone a bad person, just different. And we shouldn’t feel that we can bully someone; deny their rights; or mistreat or hurt them because they are different or because of an ugly stereotype, rumor or myth. Everyone deserves to be treated like everybody else. No one is any less or any better than anybody else.
Teach your child to protect themselves from invisible threats like Covid, Delta, Beta, Delta Cron, Omicron, and other viruses by whatever means available – masking; social distancing; vaccination; avoiding crowded places; helping parents clean on a regular basis; washing and/or sanitizing hands regularly; and eating healthy, immune system building vegetables, fruits (vitamin c-rich) & nuts and/or taking appropriate vitamins and supplements.
Tell your child to be civil even if they disagree with another person. Disagreeing with someone shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bully, threaten, or hurt another person on social media or in person; damage private or public property; or commit any act of violence. A disagreement is never a justification for violence. We won’t always share the same opinion as someone else. That’s just the way it is. So, we will just have to “agree to disagree” but it should never involve violence.
Help your child to understand that war is an awful, terrible thing that hurts everyone, directly and indirectly. And while it is sometimes an unfortunate reality, we should all do our part to make the world a better place by being kind to one another and either resolving our differences or “agreeing to disagree” without violence of any kind. If everyone remembers to follow that rule, then maybe kindness and civility will return across the nation and the world - and our world leaders will rethink declaring war.
But none of these “tips” are a “one off”, as some Brits might say. I think these are issues every parent should talk to their child about whenever there is a related story in the news. That way their child may be better able to cope with a sometimes frightening and ever-changing world. If so, maybe we will all eventually live in a world in which everyone has equal rights; pandemics are a thing of the past; the rate of covid-related hate-crime and mental illness has decreased; the economy is back on track; employment and prosperity are booming; global warming and mass extinctions have been dialed back; civility is once again a part of regular discourse; and war is non-existent. Or, at least, our children may one day be lucky enough to live in such a world. But no matter what happens out there in the “Big, Bad World”, I think parents should reassure their children they will protect them; love them; and keep them safe to the absolute best of their ability, no matter what. That’s a promise. Cross their heart.
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