Parenting in the Midst of Violent and Hateful Events

Dave Eggers’ picture book about immigration.

Dave Eggers’ picture book about immigration.

We are in the midst of a very violent and hateful series of events in this country, and many are feeling despair and worry. Those of us who care about children may find ourselves struggling to find an appropriate way to discuss these issues with them. Though none of this is particularly easy, I have a few thoughts and resources below, which I hope might be helpful.

First, minimize your intake of the news. This can be difficult in our current, hyper-fast news cycle. Find a handful of reliable sources you trust, and consider checking the news at predetermined times of the day. Many folks are feeling terrified and out of control, but being constantly connected to the internet is not necessarily going to increase your understanding of the issues, nor your sense of calm and control.

Get support for yourself, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or triggered. Try to talk to other adults, away from children and their “little ears.” Resist the urge to constantly discuss current events, and add some extra self-care into your routine. Exercise, eat well, get sleep, and incorporate some beauty into your daily routine; listen to music, create some art, write poetry, meditate, journal, hug your loved ones.

Find constructive venues to channel your worry, anger and upset: Vote in the upcoming midterm election; Find kindred political spirits and work to get candidates which reflect your values elected; Attend places of worship, or memorials for victims of violence; Seek community.

When speaking with children, it is important to be mindful of their age and development. With young children, minimizing their exposure to news and screens is critical. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have both published guidelines on kids and screen time. However, when events are talked about everywhere, children do absorb them. Confirming reality (“Yes, that did happen.”), validating the child’s feelings, and using age-appropriate language are all aspects to keep in mind.

With a preschool child, you might begin by asking what them what they understand or have heard (you may need to correct them), then follow up with how they feel about that. Next, telling them that their fear, worry or confusion is okay and understandable. Snuggling up to read an age-appropriate book on the subject can be a good way to comfort both you and your child, and promote a secure attachment.

Please check out the resources below. I hope they might support you and your family during this upsetting time.

Discussing Hate and Violence with Children

Empowering Young People in the Aftermath of Hate

Anne Frank House Education Resources

Supporting Black Children in a Hostile World

How to Talk to Kids About Immigration and Family Separation

Social Justice Books

40 Picture Books for Young Activists

Trans and Non-Gender Binary Friendly Books for Kids