“Have you talked about current events with your kids?”
I posted a poll asking this question on Instagram a few days after the initial reports of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The results were more split than I anticipated.
The answers were split almost 50-50 between yes and no. Some people who answered the poll also sent me a message to add a comment or rationale to go with their yes or no answer. I learned that, more often than not, the “no” answers came from a place of not knowing where to start the conversation and not just a flat-out reason for not wanting to talk about a current event altogether.
If I did not believe in Jesus, I think I would shy away from talking about current events with my kids too. Without the framework of the origin of sin and the work of the Savior, Jesus Christ, I am not sure how I would attempt to try and dissect world news with my family. But as a believer in Jesus, I have a starting point. In very broad strokes, we understand when and how sin entered the world (Genesis 3) and we know how the story ends. It ends with a Savior who fully took on the cost of sin—death—to free us from the cycles of suffering we experience now. Here are some other ideas to consider if you are seeking some guidance on how to talk about current events with your family.
Start the Conversation
Establish a baseline of your kids’ awareness of whatever news-related topic you want to discuss or introduce. My two older kids are in school, so with recent world events, I started by simply asking, “Have you heard about Ukraine or Russia?”
Letting them lead and share information they already have allows you to connect with them and listen. In the case of this conversation, my kids had not yet heard anything about Ukraine or Russia. In some cases, you may be surprised by what your child has heard or is aware of. In other cases, you might be starting with a blank slate. You never know until you start the conversation.
Simplify the Conversation
If you are starting with a blank slate, don’t feel like you need to explain every nuanced detail of a current event. Give them the basic framework of names and places so you have something to build on in the days and weeks to come. Resist the urge to over inform. Keep in mind that just understanding that there are boys and girls and families in another country who are hurting or suffering is more than enough information to start with in most cases. As a family, we looked up where Ukraine and Russia are on a map and how long it would take us to travel from our house to Ukraine. We also looked at some preselected pictures that showed some damaged buildings, people waiting in lines to leave Ukraine, and empty grocery store shelves. The images helped give them an age-appropriate idea of what suffering looks like for the people of Ukraine.
Continue the Conversation
The day after I started to talk about the conflict in Ukraine, our church happened to announce a special service of prayer for Ukraine and Russia. Our school also launched an initiative to raise money to send to a sister church in Ukraine. This gave us immediate, tangible opportunities to love, serve, and pray for our neighbors around the world. After you start a conversation about current events, keeping your eyes and ears open to opportunities to continue the conversation and build on the information your children understand is helpful. Being open and willing to explore the topic and talk to your children about it with a Christian perspective, even as you are learning yourself, is what is most important. Your kids don’t need you to have all the answers, but they do need to know that you are willing to learn with them and share your faith with them as you unpack current events together.
Talking about current events with your kids is an opportunity to practice sharing your faith. It is also an opportunity to point your children to the Gospel and our deep need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity to lament the brokenness of this world, teach your children to pray, and celebrate what we have to look forward to in the new heaven and the new earth.
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