Talking with your Kids about Current Events?
Why not? There are so many news articles on line, in newspapers and on TV that are truly worthy of noting. The trick if you’re going to talk with your kids about them is to avoid our adult urge to “comment” and/or share our own opinions. Talk about a turn off! Most kids are pretty darned sure about OUR opinions–and they don’t need a lecture from us.
The purpose of talking to kids about current events is to get THEIR opinions and thoughts. For example, just recently there was a news story about Levi Johnson (you know Bristol Palin’s former boyfriend?). He was being interviewed and was asked: “Do you have any regrets?”. He replied that he didn’t regret “being a father”. No matter what your political beliefs, this is a great lead-in to a discussion.
In this example, no matter what your opinions and ideas on the subject, this in-the-news broadcast issue can provide a glimpse into your child’s notions and beliefs about many aspects of this story. This could be a good opening to talk about “premarital sex”, “teen relationships”, “behavioral choices”, “risky behavior”, “long-term plans”, and a whole bunch more.
If you wanted to start a conversation with your child about any of these issues, how would you begin? Sit down and say, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about ____” or “Now’s a good time for us to talk about ___” Or “What do you think about ____?” Any of these openings delivered out-of-the-blue is likely to illicit an unspoken thought: “Oh, boy, here we go…here comes the lecture!”
The mistake that many parents might make in bringing up a life-lesson subject into a discussion is that we adults often want to lead the discussion. After all, we’ve got the maturity and life-long experience to impart. When we tout our own opinions before finding out what our children think, we often shut the door to an open and genuine conversation. Kids often perceive the spontaneous personal “conversation” as a one-way lecture and give us a glazed stare–have you noticed?
Instead, using another outside-the-family specific person or event (like one “in the news”), provides a sense of being an observer to the issue. By seeing the issue from a slight distance parents and kids can talk about them and their issues–them or what they or how that worked for them–it’s not quite so personal or open to personal criticism or embarrassment.
Here are some tips to connecting with your child and finding out what he/she thinks:
Be vigilant! Be on the look-out in the newspaper, on-line and in televised news for stories that can open a discussion. It might be about sex, drugs or music–it might be about personal safety–it might be about school behaviors or education. The news is full of ideas–EVERYDAY!
Ask if your child heard the story (on the news, in the paper or on-line) about _____. If not, explain what happens in the story. If so, ask, “What do you think about it?”
Be prepared to ask open-ended questions so that you won’t get a “uh” or a “yes” or a “no”. Try questions like “What do you think he was thinking?” or “What do you imagine he thought was going to happen?” or “How do you suppose he got in that predicament?”.
Avoid asking leading or personal questions like: “You wouldn’t do that, would you?” or (even worse) “You wouldn’t be so foolish as to think that, would you?” or “How can I be sure you aren’t going to get into that type of trouble?”.
Ask your questions and give your child plenty of time to respond.
Avoid judging his/her response, notions or beliefs. Notice your own tendency or desire to preach or teach and DON’T. Keep asking open-ended questions so your child can keep sharing and talking. This is your opportunity to find out what your child needs to know or understand–not your time to act on it.
If the “discussion” goes awry, apologize for YOUR part in the conversation. Explain that you just wanted to talk TOGETHER about what YOU had seen “in the news”. But, don’t defend your position about the subject–it’ll lead to an argument if your child disagrees. Or it might even shut your child down and close a future window of opportunity for discussion.
Be gentle on yourself. Talking WITH kids is tough! It takes practice and intention to automatically use “open-ended” questions. It takes a true desire to find out what your kids think and belief and resist the immediate desire to correct their thinking.
Parenting requires patience, skill, knowledge–and experience. Your children are out-there exposed to all sorts of ideas and behaviors. Our job is to assist them to do what we did–learn from what we observe and experience. Talking with your kids about issues “out-there” makes it easier to open a conversation about a subject, learn from it and change or confirm beliefs and ideas. Luckily there is a lot of hot-topics in the news everyday we can use to start the dialogue.
For more information about relating to kids and learning how to join with them, you’re invited to visit http://www.EncourageBetterBehaviors.com After all, when the goin’ gets rough, it’s wise to go ‘n’ get more information.