Breaking the News to a child

Last week, I was interviewed by a journalist for the Telegraph who wanted to know how I explained and answered difficult questions about current affairs to Boy1.

Its a really interesting issue because I’ve always wanted to make sure I don’t overprotect my children from the big wide world. In fact its my responsibility as a parent to teach them about ‘real life‘, but at the same time, I have to filter and edit to a level that’s comfortable for them, and me (to be totally honest).

We have the news on every morning, as I always tell him its important to know what is going on in the world around us, but I guess that world has always seemed quite distant from him and nothing to worry about.

So when, out of the blue, Boy 1 asked me about the Westminster attacks a few weeks ago (just before I headed to London), it took me by surprise. I had to try my best not to use the word ‘terrorism’ as I knew this might scare him even more. Instead I described this very angry man that wanted express his anger and unfortunately some people died because of him. But with any ‘deep’ conversation I have with him, I try to end on the positive, so explained that the police were on the case, keeping us all safe. Because, for a child, that’s the most important thing. They need to have confidence and optimism and it’s our job to maintain that view for them. 

When he asked my why Donald Trump had won the election if he’s such a mean man, that says horrible things about women and Mexicans, I had to explain that sometimes not everyone agrees with each other. That’s how democracy works.

I’ve found that in these situations its beneficial to put things in a context a child can related too, without over-simplifying the situation.Whether that’s through the importance of talking and compromising or helping those in need, it helps to put their mind at ease.

Through the interview I realised that whilst I try to be honest, I will still try to change the conversation in certain situations. Seeing injured bodies of innocent children that could the same age as his brother, or hearing about young people being attacked by their family members – he doesn’t need to hear that, not just yet.

But in a world of hyperbole and click-bait driven content, where youngsters have easy access to media, the challenge for us as parents is to ensure they are enlightened, not exposed. Educated, not excluded from the world they live in. We use this an opportunity to build strong citizens of the world.

Then, as in most cases, after about 5 minutes they’ll turn to you and ask ‘what’s for dinner?’.

X

PS – if you are really struggling for words to explain the news, I’d highly recommend a subscription to The Week Junior. Boy 1 loves it!

 

God bless the USA, please

Regardless of my views of Mr Trump, America has spoken.

All change…

This time eight years ago, I remember holding a very little Boy1 as America took a massive step forward by electing its first black president. At that moment he was entering a world of progress and opportunity. He’d never know a life where the idea of a black president was unfathomable. There was a feeling of hope, progress, pride and most of all, unity.

Today, I sit with Boy2 and emotions couldn’t be more different. I see people angry, upset, shocked and disappointed. I see others boasting and laughing. I see a nation, in fact a world, divided and confused.

Regardless of my views of Mr Trump, America has spoken. Democracy is democracy and the majority has spoken.

We must now try to come together and teach our children about love and tolerance. We must embrace change and go forward with a positive outlook. We can not let negativity win.

Today might be stormy, but sunshine will return.

xx

 

Why 2016 Is The Year To Teach Kids About Democracy

2016 – the year politics and democracy changed. If anyone had told me at the start of the year that we’d experience a Brexit saga (oh, what a saga it is turned out to be) and that a property tycoon with no political experience would be within touching distance of becoming the next POTUS, I would have laughed in your face. Very loudly.

But with all the surrealism and confusion, on both sides of the Atlantic, I’ve realised we must use the period of time to engage children in the issue of democracy.

hands

Yes, you can have ‘family meetings’ to vote for which film to watch or what topping to get on a pizza. Pretty sufficient for a child, right? At the end of the day, they’ll probably be happy with either outcome, so no skin off anyone’s nose. But is that really a lesson?

What about when they’ve voiced their opinion and ‘done the right thing’ but things don’t go their way? What about when they see a parent, a family member, a commentator on TV is truly set back, shocked, angry and even upset at the outcome of a vote? Do we teach them to just give up, because they didn’t get their way? This is where the democracy talk really comes into its own.

I often like to say, ‘democracy is a chance to have your say, not a guarantee you’ll have your way’. Never has this phrase been so true.

The Brexit result fueled lots of anger, and every time my son hears Trump’s name, there’s usually some kind of negative story attached and it’s up to me to explain why these people are still ‘winning’.

My God, does it make me wonder if children might just lose all faith in democracy altogether when he hears people’s reactions to these victories. It might make many people want to give up, but as parents we have to remind our kids just how important it is to have the right to vote. Our western, first world freedoms often make us slightly complacent about voting because the differences between outcomes aren’t always life-changing, but we must remember that not everyone lives in a nation that lets people express their opinions.

We have the right to share our views and influence the direction our country takes through our democratic system. In fact, if we don’t like the system, we still have the right to debate it, challenge it and try to make changes by encouraging people to make a stand together and vote.

Children need to know that sometimes not everyone will agree with you. In fact, there will be occasions where that group is larger than yours so they will ‘win’. What’s great about democracy is the opportunity, not necessarily the result.

I read far too many articles about how young people have become distanced and disenfranchised from the political system – not just in the UK – and this is worrying. We should use this period of time as an opportunity to stir up more political passion in them than ever before. Ask them what they don’t like about the current political state, but also, what they think can be changed. We need them to stand up and attempt to change things. If they think politicians are ‘all the same’, then let’s encourage them to be the difference, rather than pleading ignorance. Be the change they want to see in the world….If now isn’t the time to teach this lesson, then I don’t know when is.

While debates, complaints, protests and strikes don’t always get the desired outcome, they are a step forward. They can be powerful weapon in making your voice and opinion heard. They can be liberating. A chance to engage in a conversation for better understanding of each other’s views and maybe persuade them to accept your view. Because sometimes just one extra voice or vote can tip the balance.

So whilst we wait to witness the clear up of the mess that is 2016 and ask ourselves if all this stuff really happened, let’s not forget to remind our children, democracy is good and that their one vote is always better than no vote at all.

XX

This blog post first appeared on HuffingtonPostUK

#MiddleClassRebel

I walk into the kitchen to find Boy2 with the fridge door wide open, trying to open a pot of houmous! 

My mum, who helps out with looking after him a couple of days a week, told me that he stole the smoked salmon off her plate at breakfast time! 

I have some how managed to create some kind of middle class monster. I laugh, but do wonder if I should be exposing him to more crap. Not just food wise, but generally in life. 

My mother moved to the uk when she was just 18. From living in a dingy flat in Nottingham, to a cold terraced house in Salford and eventually a lovely three bed and the leafy ‘burbs’, she worked her ass off to provide for us. She used every penny she had to pay for our education (I’ll share my thoughts on education another time). 

We were lucky enough to witness her struggle and the eventual rewards. We are eternally grateful for what she sacrificed to make sure her children put on the right path. I think it’s paid off. We all have decent jobs, work hard, have good friends, give to charity etc. 

But now that she’s put the hard work in, she’s got these middle class grand children. They live in a nice part of Manchester, have good schools on their doorsteps and a wealth of extra curricular activities to choose from. 

Life is good. It could be better, and I want it to be better for them, but I’m acutely aware that by reaping the benefits and rewards of a previous generation’s struggle, they become less aware of how hard life can be.

Yes they know about poverty and drought. But that’s different to the everyday battles educated and focused people go through to provide for their dependents. They don’t realise that whilst they are tucking into brioche on a Saturday morning, their neighbours or class mates could be counting the number of slices of bread left to get them through before pay day. 

I’m not sure exactly what point I’m making in this post. I guess I just don’t want my children to take for granted the half decent lives they have been given, by becoming ignorant to others. 

Or is this just a case of middle class mother worries??