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
When it comes to holiday giving, it's the thought that counts, which is why homemade gifts from kids are so treasured by their mothers. Children might not have money to spend on an expensive piece of jewelry or designer handbag, but they do have the time to DIY something special for their number one fan. If you're in charge of helping the little ones think of presents, check out the above list of homemade gifts for mom. From a custom vase to Instagram coasters to Warhol-inspired wall art, we have something for every taste and skill level.
At our household, we have a large, diverse collection of toys. While I’m not as uptight as my husband on what enters our kids’ toy chest, my husband must approve all toy acquisitions mostly because of aesthetics (appearance is important). In our search for functional and stylish toys, the sustainable ones often have the best design, and appeal to the visual and tactile senses or improve fine motor skills such as dexterity and hand coordination. Here are a few of our family favorites that intrigue and hold our little ones’ attention—and look good, too.
Worried that a violent video game might sneak its way into your shopping cart during the holidays? Before you make it to the register, make sure you're armed with all the information you need regarding your child's games. Just because your well-meaning thirteen-year-old promises you that the game he's about to buy with the gift card from Uncle Mike is totally chill, doesn't mean it's good for kids. Do your research ahead of time to avoid any game store drama. And have a chat with your offspring before the big day; let them know that you're going to have to green light their choices before they get their hearts set on any particular item. At the end of the day, you're just being a good parent. Some of the games on the market now may look OK at first glance, but are actually quite objectionable. Trust us: We've done our homework and we're here to give you the ultimate low-down. Check out this slideshow for all the games to steer clear of this season. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Two sociologists have found that parents who have daughters are more inclined to support the GOP and turn a cold shoulder to Democrats.
The experts at Nameberry.com predict what will be big in baby-naming next year
Famed event-planner David Stark shared tips for making chic holiday decorations using items you already have around the house. Take a look!
Sociologist Karen Z. Kramer found that over the past decade more than 550,000 men were stay-at-home fathers, which is about 3.5 percent of the married with kids population.
Ben Miller celebrates his wife's birthday and the anniversary of the day their premature son Ward Miles came home for good with a video documenting his first year.
Adopting an animal is a major commitment. Yet all too often people put more effort into researching what kind of car to get than the type of pet that would best fit their lifestyle.
’Tis the season to send out holiday greeting cards to all your friends and family. But, as our friends at Awkward Family Pet Photos know, not all holiday snapshots are the same. Some are just plain kooky — especially when pets are included. So with good tidings and great cheer, here are 10 wacky holiday animal portraits that are sure to make you laugh out loud and get you in the holiday spirit. And possibly make you think twice about dressing up the family cat this year.
King of the jungle? Nah, it's just a labradoodle!
Side-by-side images of adorable babies and their celebrity doppelgängers