5 Tips for Parenting When the World is Scary
5 Tips for Parenting When the World is Scary
By Christina Herr
It seems like parenting in 2016 just keeps getting more and more daunting, doesn’t it? Of course there are the typical parenting challenges, like getting your children to not put their fingers up their siblings’ noses and convincing your picky eater that there is more to life than just chicken nuggets. But on a more serious note, it’s a scary world out there, and frankly, it can be a bit terrifying for those of us who are raising the next generation of contributing members of society. We want to prepare our children for the world but goodness, what kind of world are we preparing for our children? Just this summer we have mourned for Orlando, Nice, Munich, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, among so many others. We’ve seen fights over whose lives matter, fights over racial tensions, and childish fights between people who are supposed to be respectable professionals and the future leaders of our nation. It just never seems to end.
There has always been bad in the world, however; it’s certainly not a new thing. When we were young, there were wars, reports of crime, and senseless tragedies. Our awareness is certainly heightened nowadays though because we are inundated with the news over and over again on our TVs, laptops, phones, and newsstands, more so than ever before. And maybe we notice it more now because now because well, we aren’t kids anymore, but are the protectors of kids, so our feelers are out, checking for any threats against the well-being of the world in which we are raising our children. Make no mistake, “bad”, “scary”, and “evil” are concepts that have been around for while, although they are still unsettling.
But you know what else has always been around?
Human decency. Humanitarians. Random acts of kindness. Selfless love.
We can choose to remember that, and impart that truth on our children. And along with that, here are five other tips for parenting when the world is scary.
1. Notice the good in the world.
When you see an act of kindness, acknowledge it and talk to your children about it. It was encouraging to turn on the news and see the long lines of people lining up to donate blood in the wake of the Orlando night club tragedy. Those types of stories are out there, so don’t forget to notice them amid the tragedies. It’s like the famous quote by the quintessential good neighbor, Mr. Fred Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Also, empower your own children by exploring ways they can help others. Even very young children can write thank you notes or letters of sympathy. Donations can be made, prayers can be said, care packages can be delivered. Help them to recognize the good, and to be the good.
2. Remember that more is caught than taught.
Kids will do what you do much more than what you say. In times of stress, be mindful that they will mirror the way you act. It may be easier said than done, but it will help the both of you if you can try to stay calm after hearing about the bad in the world.
3. Explain things at their level.
Sometimes your children will have questions based on something they saw or heard on TV, from a friend, or something they overheard they heard you talking about. Don’t dismiss them, because if they don’t get the information from you, they will get it somewhere else. Do not discredit their concern, but answer their questions in a way that they will understand. As a general rule, the younger the child, the less you need to say to explain the situation. “Grown ups were fighting and some of them got hurt.” or “There was someone who had a lot of anger in his heart and he did something that made a lot of people sad.” are examples of kid-friendly language you can use.
4. Give them a sense of safety.
You may not be able to control what happens outside your home, but you definitely have a greater say in what happens inside it. Make sure they know that there are routines and plans for things that can be scary in their minds (power outages, a fire, tornado, etc.). Let them know that home is a safe place.
5. Don’t leave the most important words left unsaid.
Sometimes when the world is scary, we tend to complain, fret, or assign blame. There’s already enough negativity in the world, and we should instead not underestimate the power of kind words. Use them often. And remember that to our children, the most powerful words of all can simply be a reassuring, “I love you, no matter what.”
“It is big, and sometimes quite frightening. But on the whole, the world is a wonderful place.” -E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web
Christina Herr is a mom to three young children with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. She is also a freelance writer and blogger who helps other moms know that they are not alone in this crazy yet beautiful journey called ‘motherhood’. Follow her on her Facebook page and on her blog.