Superheroes with the power to read, salt and pepper shakers that talk and toe tapping strategy songs are a large part of my day. They serve as a means to help preschoolers share, cooperate and enjoy their environment that they are a part of.
So, how do we talk to kids about the not so enjoyable..the troubling and scary events that occur in the real world?
Less is more.
The best course is to answer the questions in a clear, concise way. Don’t offer up extra information. And for the very little ones, it’s best to shield them from what’s happening all together (an easy way to do this is to avoid having the news on when they’re in the room).
As kids move into grade school, they are much more aware of the world outside of themselves. They also have great difficulty understanding the distance between that world and themselves. How they see the world will depend on how we, as parents, help to paint the picture.
When it comes to the tragedies that they’ll inevitably hear about, it’s best to focus on the facts and what you can do to help. One of the workers at my daughter’s school lost a large portion of his family in an earthquake. We talked about it as a family and focused on what we could do to help. My daughter wrote a letter telling him how sorry she was and we helped collect food and supplies for the people affected. The worst part of these situations for kids is their feeling of powerlessness, so enabling them to take control by being proactive about helping is important.
Here are 3 more tips to help you talk to your kids about topics you may tend to avoid:
- Listen first, then talk. With the less is more philosophy, listening to our children in an empathetic, interested way is of utmost importance. Find out what they want to know, what questions they have, and take cues from the way they are talking. Do they want a hug? Reassurance? Answers?
- Be truthful, calm and explain the situation. If children ask about a specific situation, such as natural disasters, a good answer is: “Yes, this was a terrible tragedy but it is very unlikely that it would happen here. We prepare ourselves for emergencies such as these. We have a lot of people whose job it is to keep us safe.” Even kids as old as twelve need to be reassured.
- Make them feel safe. Many specialist’s believe that it’s better to apologize and explain if an improbable, traumatic event does occur rather than have kids live with the fear that something “could” happen. PBS does an excellent job of explaining the science of tsunamis, earthquakes and the improbability of it happening to us on Savage Earth.
Please share some communication tips that have helped your little ones feel more secure after a difficult time, because we’re all in this together!
PBS Kids Renews Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I literally just sent a note to Nicole, a mother of two year old twins. In the message, I explained that there’s a lot of love poured into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and while, like any other business, there are challenging times where it’s necessary to fight for what you believe in, knowing who our audience is and receiving such incredible feedback like hers helps so very much.
I honestly believe that we treat the characters as our own children and have the utmost of respect for yours..we hope that comes through in the show.
So thank you Nicole, Malina Saval @MalinaSaval (Variety - Assoc Editor) and everyone who’s ever had a kind word to say Fred Rogers’ baby, Daniel. After all, we do it to make this a happier world.
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
-Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Act like a man!
What does that even mean?
It means A LOT.
Especially since I have two daughters.
It definitely doesn’t mean what I thought it meant when I was making that mysterious transformation, into becoming a man. That’s certainly because most old fashioned attitudes teach our young men to stifle who they truly are and make life changing decisions for often absurd reasons and superficial rewards. That sounds like the opposite of manly to me.
I saw the poignant but powerful documentary from The Representation Project on goodmenproject.com. Hopefully it will aid young boys in their transformative years. To teach them what “Act Like A Man” should mean.
And especially what it NEEDS to mean..for all of us
I like to call it the “quarter-life crisis”. Out of college & in the “real world” for a few years, and suddenly panicking about whether the job you have now – the one you worked so hard in high school and college to land – will lead to a fulfilling and gratifying life-long career.
Studying towards my Masters in Developmental Psych. at Teachers College, Columbia U., I was certain that my passion was to work with children in some capacity, but I found myself at a crossroads, with 2 outstanding career opportunities – a very fortunate “problem” to have! Children’s Media or Speech and Language Therapy? Although they seem like wildly different professions, they are actually quite intertwined.
Exposed to several Language Development & Speech Therapy courses in my program at Teachers College, I decided to explore the SLP profession in the actual field. I was privileged to meet with Speech & Language Therapist, Lauren Turk, M.S., CCC-SLP, who kindly allowed me to shadow a few of her therapy sessions in school settings.
Ranging in ages from 3-16 years, and with a variety of different speech & language disorders, her clients did have 1 important aspect in common: the comforting & motivating environment that Lauren carefully established. It was inspiring to see how a speech therapist can really make an impact on a child to live a better, more fulfilled life.
There has been a greater awareness about the importance of early identification of speech, language, swallowing & hearing disorders in young children, but people may not necessarily know who to approach, or how and when to get treatment. Luckily, Lauren Turk has devised a new website, TherapyfindR, which enables parents to search for qualified therapists by zip code. Search results display profiles of therapists with their personal description, credentials & specialty so the family can carefully select the therapist that is right for them. The site is a FREE service to help you find the right therapist for your child’s unique situation and needs.
As for me, I simply could not leave the children’s media world (Have you seen how cute that Daniel Tiger is??). My work as Associate Producer at Out of the Blue enables me to enrich children’s lives, & particularly their communication skills, in a slightly different way, but I feel that my (brief) exposure to the SLP career has shaped the way I view educational children’s television: While I feel I am able to reach and make an impact on many more kids at once, it is important to keep in mind that each and every child behind the screen has distinctive strengths & weaknesses and comes from a unique family & school environment.
Thanks again to Lauren Turk for opening my eyes to the significant field of SLP, and make sure to check out her new site at www.TherapyFindR.com!
Alexandra Cassel is Associate Producer at Out of the Blue Enterprises, LLC. She is completing her M.A. in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Alexandra received her B.A. in Psychology and Media Studies from Colgate University.