Dealing With Media Overload, by Heidi Barrett
We were in the car running errands on January 6 when the news came over the radio. The minion in the back seat went quiet. I stopped to get gas and I could see in the car window that the wheels were turning in my 13 years old’s head. She was processing a lot. When we got back in the car, she asked how we knew if our friends that work in the Capitol were safe? I told her we didn’t. I don’t lie to my child or try to sugar coat anything with her.
Children can see through the b.s. over a long haul, this can lead to not trusting an adult or parent. Although when I speak to my children, I give age-appropriate answers. I was honest and straight with my daughter that day, “We don’t currently know if our friends are safe. It sounds like from the news that they are but what we can do right now is lift those friends in prayer”. We continued with our errands. Some part of me said this is so wrong going on with our daily lives but I knew we had to keep to our routine.
We spent the rest of the day periodically listening to the news. Our conversations
were led by Maggie. She would like to work in the Capitol one day and maybe hold public office and she announced that she would not be afraid at her job. I remember back in the day when her questions were simplier, "Why is grass green? Why is the sky blue?" Instead, her questions now are, "Why would a person want to harm another person if they don’t politically agree or if their skins are a different color?" How I long to reply, "Go ask your dad." I am my daughter’s safe landing place and she knows she can talk to me about anything. I might not have the answers now that she asks such complicated questions but I always will be willing to talk.
The following day, both Maggie and I woke with such sadness for our country, for everyone that lives here. It would have been easy to wallow in self-pity but that is not what we needed. As we started our day, again I let Maggie lead the conversation. I made coffee and hot chocolate while she chatted with me, because everyone knows hot chocolate with whip cream fixes most problems in the world. Our day looked like most school days, and we followed our normal routine with questions and conversations sprinkled throughout. Kids and teens thrive on routine even in bumpy times and honestly so do I.
This was not a time to shake things up at all in our house. While not ignoring the issue keeping to a routine sends the message that we are going to be alright and we will be. Don’t deny your child’s feelings. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. It is when we act on those feelings that we can run into problems. Don’t tell your child what they are feeling is wrong, again feelings are neither right nor wrong.We take our child’s autonomy away when we police our child’s feelings. Don’t tell your child what they should feel; again the feelings are theirs.
There is no reason why we need instant access to the 24-hour news cycle. It is okay to take a break from the media or being online. Sometimes our children need us to take that access away from them. Make it a family affair. If your child needs a break from their phone for the day or week, make sure you are taking the same break. Model the behavior you want your child to follow. Be honest with your kiddo. If it is tough not checking your phone every 5 minutes admit this to your child. I bet the teen can relate to your predicament. On your media break keep to the same routine but add in some extra fun. Have a family game night, go for a walk in the snow with your kids (or in my case go for a walk in the cold rain and see who gets drenched the fastest), do a puzzle together, or make dinner together. It does not matter what the activity is, just as long as you are together. As the adult don’t wander off to go peek at your phone, you owe your kids to stay in the moment. At the end of the day, don’t forget to hug your kid and to tell them that you love them.