Monday, August 18, 2008

Do Talk To Your Kids About The News

Whenever I see Tom Brokaw on TV, I feel that all is right with the world, and if he's reporting something horrible, he does so in such a way that feels like a benevolent sitcom dad breaking down the moral for the episode. See, for me, Brokaw was my Mr. Rodgers. My television in the boonies didn't pick up public television, so I grew up only peripherally aware of Sesame Street and the wonderful days in Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood. But I did watch Tom Brokaw on the "Today Show" every morning like clockwork with my parents. Newspapers were always piled somewhere around my dad's favorite chair. In short, news was part of the daily fabric of our household. Explains a lot doesn't it?

I was listening to a radio program recently that flashes back to specific years, and it played a clip from the Challenger Shuttle disaster. Immediately, I remember sitting on my coffee table as a middle schooler, riveted and horrified by the images of the shuttle blowing up. We spoke about it frankly at home, and in school, especially because my math teacher had applied to be the teacher on that flight. It was difficult to process, but I think I gained a lot from that experience, and it only made me more appreciative, and yes, more curious.

Many people shield themselves from the news. It can be difficult to take in. It can make you feel insecure some days, especially if you fall prey to the sensationalistic elements that news organizations have resorted to to garner their fair share of the public's attention. News doesn't need to be dull, but neither should the degree to which it entertains be a key indicator of it's worth.

Also, we feel the instinct to protect our children from the news of the day, and depending upon the child's age, that can be appropriate. But, ultimately it's important to talk about the news with your kids. It presents great opportunities to work out what your and their thoughts, feelings and viewpoints are, as well as working out what you value. Frank discussion of news in my household growing up also taught me to not merely accept one point of view as the only point of view, and I learned to think critically and independently as a result.

Teaching your kids to be informed and to think for themselves is one of the most important legacies you can give them, and I for one thank my parents for that.

For more resources about how to talk about the news with your kids, visit:

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