Whether they’ve been informed via a headline, a news item or something they’ve seen on social media, our kids will have some big feelings in response to the news. As parents, we don’t need to provide detailed explanations of the complex political situation in Eastern Europe, nor be able to explain the fraught history leading up to the headlines we’re now confronted with. But we do need to be available to listen and answer questions, as best we can.
Initially at our place, some short answers to basic questions were suffice and our girls headed off to school relatively calmly, all things considered. My colleague, however, shared how his young kids needed much more time to talk when they first heard the news, and more help to find their way back to calm. He sat them down and explained the situation with a basic overview that was appropriate to their ages. He then offered them his undivided attention for 15 minutes and invited their questions – any and all questions welcomed, and he answered them as best as he could.
It was a day or so later that I noticed my girls were really struggling with the news updates they kept inadvertently hearing. One in particular was especially challenged and crumpled into tears soon after lunch on Sunday. Admittedly, my first reaction was panic – what could we possibly say to help ease her mind in this moment? With nothing else in our toolkit, my husband and I bundled her up into a cuddle on the couch and invited her to ask us anything she wanted to – any questions at all about what was worrying her. I could tell straight away she was grateful to be welcomed into that place of dialogue, and she had no trouble articulating her deepest concern: “Is there going to be World War 3?”
Friends, did we ever think we’d have to answer this question from our legitimately frightened young people? I certainly didn’t and man is it a lot! But I want to encourage you – I share my family’s experience because the simple Q&A actually worked. To be honest, I had my doubts and felt all kinds of inadequate, but it worked. My husband and I did our best to provide straight-up answers based on the information at hand, while drawing on the insights and encouragement that speak to who we are as a family. And our girl felt better.
So here it is – a simple strategy for supporting our kids through a really complex situation: Be available, invite questions, answer those questions.