Managing kids’ media exposure
How to shelter kids from 24/7 coverage of a crisis like Sandy Hook.
If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve struggled with what to say – or not say – to your children in wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As an adult, no words can adequately express this profound loss. Trying to find the right words to have a conversation about the incident or calm our little ones is even more difficult.
It’s only natural that parents want to fiercely protect their children from such a heart-breaking crisis, but in our 24/7 culture of media coverage, it can be tough territory to navigate.
We turned to Mimi Devens, third grade teacher and licensed clinical social worker at Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge, Calif. on how to handle kids’ media exposure after an incident like Sandy Hook. Here are her recommendations on what to do, say and avoid.
Consider a media blackout
Small children should not be exposed to any media over the next few day. “This is a time to 'circle the wagons,' stay close, and protect them from this news,” says Devens. On a weekend it may be difficult to avoid media if families are out and about for holiday events or preparations. “However, it is important to make every effort to have the news and radio turned off,” she says.
Avoid talking about these events in front of the children. “Do not discuss it with them and then instruct them not to talk about it at school,” says Devens. “They will be unable to hold it in; it's unfair to them and would likely exacerbate their distress.”
Turn off the TV
“Be aware that sporting events or other TV programs often take impromptu breaks with news updates,” says Devens. “Children could easily hear more than they can handle in the few seconds before a parent can hit the pause or off button.” The images shown are primarily of the faces of crying and distraught children. “This alone will trigger many questions, and likely, concerns and fears,” she says.
More on MSN Living: 20 Pinterest crafting 'fails'
Keep kids off the internet
“Allowing young children on iPads and computers will also leave them vulnerable to exposure to images and news,” says Devens. “To be exposed to this kind of news may well be devastating and traumatic.”
Focus on the child
Should a child hear about this shooting, Devens recommends limiting details. Take cues from your kid. “If they ask what happened, you can ask what they've heard rather than launching into an answer,” she says. “You'll then know how much they are aware of and can tailor your answer.”
More on MSN Living: Ugly holiday sweaters
“Should they ask why this man did this, you can say that sometimes people have an illness in their bodies,” says Devens. We know people who have been sick, right? Well, sometimes people have an illness in their minds that makes them do things that they wouldn't otherwise do. This is very, very rare. “You can assure them that all the adults in their life and at our school work very hard to make sure they are safe,” she says. Tell them they are safe at school. “However, only discuss school if you are sure that they know it happened at a school,” adds Devens.
Keep mindful company
Be sure relatives and friends are aware of the children's presence when they discuss the tragedy. Devens’ children were in kindergarten on 9/11. “We managed to keep that event from them for years,” she says. “They had heard something about 'a building' but that was all.”
Short and sweet
“Should children notice that you are upset or tearful and ask what's wrong, you can explain that you heard a story about a family who was struggling and that it made you sad,” says Devens. “It would be helpful to add that you're very happy that you are all healthy and happy together.” Keep conversations brief and age appropriate.
Ask for help
“Don't hesitate to call a teacher or mental health professional if you feel lost, startled, or worried when faced with challenging questions, and are unsure of how to answer,” says Devens. “Remember, you don't have to answer questions immediately if you feel at a loss.”
How have you handled this difficult conversation with your kids?
Photo: Nick Daly/Getty Images
News, stories, tips and laughs for moms & dads
We know—it’s cold outside and you’re dreaming of beaches. Consider this the next best thing: awesome indoor water parks around the world equipped with pools, water slides, swim-up bars, and in some cases, all-year “sunlight.”
Figuring out the best kind of vacation for your family can take a bit of time -- if you're beach people, it's pretty easy. Find a resort, make sure they have cribs and book your tickets. Adventure buffs with older kids can hit a national park and have a total blast, while artsy types might prefer to pick a cosmopolitan city with great museums, restaurants, and some serious insider tips on babysitters. Whatever your preferences for a spring getaway for the family, there's still time! Click through this slideshow for some of our favorite vacation ideas for families, from those with babies and toddlers through to teens. Bon voyage!
Ah, bedtime. That sweet, sweet hour when you pack the kiddos off to dreamland and you get some much-needed "me time." Right? Well, sometimes. Bedtime can also be one of the most stressful times of day. Developing a bedtime ritual is something nearly every baby expert and pediatrician recommends. Children rely on ritual and stability, and it's a huge comfort to them to repeat the same actions every night before bed.You can treat this time of day as a series of hurdles to jump over before the big relief or decide to turn bedtime into a series of sweet moments to cherish daily. Here are our favorite ideas for bedtime rituals that everyone in the family will take comfort in.
Millennials have a notoriously bad rap. In the age of all-encompassing technology, recent generations are often criticized for their affinity for video games, their short attention spans and their selfie-obsession. Such insularity in face of the apex of globalization seems especially troubling. And yet, there may be hope. All conjecture aside, social media has a different story to tell about the leaders of tomorrow. Not too long ago, Malala Yousufzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history, but she's not the only wunderkind to watch. Click through this slideshow for our list of today's top ten inspirational kids. We think you'll find Malala's in very good company.
Find yourself wandering the aisles, suddenly needing an owl-shaped candle while drinking a $5 latte? You're not alone, moms...
When it comes to traveling with the family, "adventure" can mean a lot of different things. Just packing the suitcases for a 3-hour flight can be an adventure of its own. And surviving a 5-hour flight with a toddler? That's a whole different kind of adventure (tip: pack snacks). But when your family adventure is good, it can be is really, really good. Sometimes swimming with dolphins or ziplining through the rainforest is just the kind of vacation that will make you forget all about airport hassle, and will get your kids (even the teens) smiling. From hiking the Rockies to white-water rafting, we've found 11 family adventure vacations that will get the adrenaline pumping without driving you crazy.
When you're expecting a baby, preparations can be overwhelming. Decorating is stressful as it is, and when it comes to nurseries, there are the added concerns of reducing sharp edges, use of engaging colors and -- if you're a believer in the powers of feng shui—optimal furniture placement. Luckily, your favorite fashionable A-listers are here with tons of dazzling baby room ideas. Click through this slideshow for more nursery ideas from celebrities, stylists and just plain fashionable moms.
Our Research Institute scouted out the New York City Toy Fair and spotted a few standouts we predict will be topping wish lists shortly.
When we scoped out the New York City Toy Fair, we spotted everything from human-like robots to kid-friendly DIY projects.
Stroll down any aisle of a Toys"R"Us these days and you'll be confronted with a billion options that are light-years beyond anything you had to entertain yourself with as a kid. Lego cruise ships (complete with flatscreen TVs in the lounge and sideboard jet-skis), battery-operated Mercedes-Benz sedans, and hi-tech tablets with Android operating systems abound. We wondered, as we let ourselves get nostalgic for a moment, if any of the beloved toys we played with as children were still even on the market. Thanks to a quick hunt on the Internet we were able to find that Fisher Price still makes their classic Two Tune TV, and you can still get your hands on a good ol' Slinky. Here's a roundup of the best old-school toys for kids-- we encourage you to click through the slideshow and consider wrapping up a well-loved classic for your little one this year.
Not great with a budget? Don't sweat it. Try these simple ways to save.
Watch the video of Kristen Bell going head to head with paparazzi - it will make you angry