The other day I casually mentioned in conversation that I had spoken to my children about Syria, and a friend gasped, “Really?” I was genuinely surprised. Is talking to little kids about current events not a thing?
A lot of what happens in the world is scary, I get that. When listening to NPR while prepping breakfast and lunchboxes each morning, I definitely skip ahead a segment when I hear the words “rape,” “murder,” or “atrocity.” Little ears don’t need a side of genocide with their Cheerios.
But natural disasters? Political commentary? Protests? I let those play on, trusting that 1) my kids are probably too busy playing to listen anyway, and 2) if my kids are listening, they’re becoming familiar with people, places, and concepts outside their normal spheres of influence. I’m not just okay with this; it’s the desired result.
When Nepal was struck by that devastating earthquake in 2015, my daughter saw the photographs in my Sunday paper and asked me to read aloud to her. I did (selectively) and then we went online together to make a small donation to UNICEF in her name. She still talks about that day.
This openness has backfired. My kids are terrified of El Chapo and regularly ask me to confirm he’s still in jail. (For now, kids!) Who knows what other random concerns they may harbor that have gone unspoken? My husband and I keep conversations about current events with our children brief, age-appropriate, and free of disturbing details, but it’s still a risk we’re running, to be sure.
Overriding that risk is our ardent desire to raise curious and compassionate citizens of the world. There’s plenty of time for this, of course. They are only three and five. Am I jumping the gun? Maybe. But I also know my kids. They don’t scare easily (except for notorious drug kingpins) and they notice everything. If I don’t talk to them about Donald Trump or Aleppo or Black Lives Matter, who will?