How to discuss current affairs with young children

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Yes I do still read newspapers….and sometimes even read them with my eldest.

I have a question for you. If you have young children say, under 10 years of age, do you discuss current affairs with them? If so, how do you go about it?

I do talk about current affairs with my eldest, Helen, who is five. I don’t really make a point of doing it regularly, but every now and again we have a chat about what’s going on in the world. It’s always sanitised and I will always try and make sure the things we talk about are appropriate for her age and level of understanding.

The catalyst for these discussions is often something she hears on the radio while driving to school. I’ll usually have Radio 4 on the car stereo and every now and again she’ll pick up on a comment and ask me to explain it.

I have also sat down with the Sunday papers and gone through them with her, giving her a child-friendly version of the news. Don’t, however, be fooled. These sessions with the papers happen very sparodically and rarely last more than a minute. This seems to be the point at which she wants to go off elsewhere and play.

It probably has something to do with me having been a journalist, but I think it’s vital kids are encouraged to discuss the news and the wider world. It’s how to go about it that causes me a headache.

I can’t remember how it came about, but a while ago Helen was asking me about the situation in the Ukraine. One of Helen’s friends has a Polish mother. To protect her privacy and for the general amusement value, we’ll call this woman Ewa Demarczyk after the famous Polish cabaret singer. I was telling Helen that, with Poland being right next to Ukraine, Ewa was very concerned about the situation and the impact on her own country.

On hearing this, Helen immediately took sides. In fact I practically had to stop her heading over to Moscow to tell Vladimir Putin exactly what she thought of his actions.

That was a few months ago and yet Helen still talks about Vladimir Putin from time to time. Or rather, as she calls him, “the man that wants to take over the world.” More than once I’ve had to ask her to stop when she’s been sat in the back of the car, throwing things into the front, claiming that she’s throwing that at Putin.

This wasn’t the sort of response I had in mind when I thought I’d start discussing current affairs with Helen. I’m pleased to note, however, that it has got her thinking and provoked a response.

5 thoughts on “How to discuss current affairs with young children”

  1. Good post, John. I think it’s important to start these sorts of discussions, although I think you’re also right so simplify and sanitise as appropriate. It’s good for our children’s development that they start to understand what’s happening in the world around them and, more importantly, that through discussion they develop the critical faculties to come to their own independent conclusions about things. The ability to think for themselves is one of the biggest gifts we can give our children.

    1. Exactlky Tim, we are nurtring the next generation and we must give them the ability to come to their own independent conclusions. Great comment.

  2. While I may avoid the worst of the detail of the news (!) I am aware of important and key events. The news certainly needs to be heavily edited/simplified for younger children, but I do agree that it’s really important that they know what is happening in the world around them. There have been particular events where we have had to explain, as the stories have been so important here in the US and have had a direct effect on practices in schools (e.g. Sandy Hook and more frequent lock down drills) and with local events, like the Boston marathon bombing where friends knew people who had been injured. More than just understanding, and knowing what friends are talking about in the playground, I do think that we have a responsibility to explain events, injustice, consequences; and by doing so we are ultimately helping our children to develop their own opinions.

    1. Oh wow, yes I guess you have been forced to face some horrible news stories with your kids. I agree with you though, we have a duty to explain this stuff to children so they can become free thinkers. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Pingback: The General Election explained…for a six year old | Dad Blog UKThe General Election explained...for a six year old - Dad Blog UK

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