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Talking to kids about current events

Children are aware of current events in Hong Kong. With classes being cancelled and other activities curtailed, their lives are being affected. Many children also have easy access to online images and videos, which can be upsetting. What can we do as parents to help them process these events?

By Marianne Lagutaine MA (ATh) MA (Coun)

These are challenging times in the world and especially in Hong Kong, where disruption dominates the news cycle, and upsetting images and videos are becoming more commonplace.

Witnessing acts of violence in our own city touches us deeply as humans and also affects us in our role as parents. Last night my children were loudly wondering why they were sent home from school early. The reactions around our dinner table ranged from “Yay, no strings! ” from my middle son, to a my older teenage boy, who shrugged and said, “Ugh, the protests”, to my youngest, who said, “But mummy, why are they setting people on fire?”

How do you explain to children, in an appropriate way, what is going on?

Ignoring what is happening around us is not an option. As a therapist and a parent, I decided in our family to emphasize a learning perspective, and use it as an opportunity.

  • We shared age-appropriate information to make sure the children have the correct facts and are not working with distorted “hearsay” from the playground.
  • We reassured our children that as parents and adults around them our priority is to keep them safe and this is why they were sent home early, to make sure they would not be caught up in any protests.
  • We reflected together that violence is not an answer and tends to give rise to more violence.
  • We considered compassionately that both sides in a conflict are someone’s loved one and extended our thoughts to affected family members who might be grieving.
  • We discussed how it is important to learn to problem solve in a non-violent manner.
  • We learned some problem solving strategies. Here’s a good Problem Solving Worksheet to help them understand how to think through problems, not just react or feel helpless.
You May Also Want To

Consciously limit the amount of news images you and your kids are exposed to.

Take care of yourself. So you are calm and able to react considerately.

Keep existing routines and structure to provide stability to your children.

Listen to your children. Ask them questions to understand their concerns better. 

Process creatively. Let your children draw out their fears or write a story about it.

Process through play. Provide your kids with opportunity for unstructured play.

Signs of Distress

Behavioral changes, withdrawal, regression, changes in sleep, poor concentration, changes in appetite, crying and tearfulness, trouble going to school, irritability, excessive watchfulness, increased fearful reactions, moodiness.

All of the above are possible signs of distress. If they do not abate after a few weeks, you might want to consider talking with a professional to get further help and support. Contact the BFDC if this is the case.