It seems kids grow up too fast in today's world. With social media and news available 24/7 it's hard to shield them from some adult topics that bring reality all too soon to their attention. School shootings, bombings, even political issues are becoming daily topics of conversations amongst adults, on TV and the internet. These are issues that your kids may hear and wonder about. They may be scared or confused, but don't know how to talk about it. Here are some ways to speak about these adult topics to your children:
Make sure your kids know they can come to you with any questions about any topic, no matter how sensitive it may be. You want to be the one teaching your child (especially about the more sensitive topics). If you seem uncomfortable or awkward, your child will learn they should not bring those things up with you. Remind your children often that you have an open door policy where you can share things and talk about difficult matters without judgement.
Be informative and neutral
It's easy to want to simplify things or spare your child from the not so pleasant details, but it is best to be as informative as is appropriate and as well-rounded in your response as possible. Obviously use discretion. It is okay to share that people died (this may even open up a greater conversation about death) but you don't have to share the gory details. It may be hard to share both points of view on a topic, especially if you feel very strongly about one side, but it is important to let you kids develop their own opinions. Explain both sides of an issue, and then ask them how they feel before sharing your own feelings. It is okay to teach and explain your opinion, just don't push it on them.
Talk to them right away
As soon as something serious happens that can affect your child (like a school shooting for example) talk to them about it right away. By delaying the conversation it can cause fear and tension to build in your child. Or it may cause them to search for answer themselves, leading them to websites that are not appropriate or conversations with people who may not convey the same message you do. It is easy for people to get emotional and one-sided about certain situations, and when speaking to children, a more delicate approach may be appropriate.
Ask them questions
Your kids may have tons of questions for you, which you should answer as best as you can, but try asking them questions as well. Ask them how they heard about it (if you don't already know). This will help you understand what sites they are looking at, or what conversations they are having at school. Ask them how they feel. Ask them questions to make sure they understand what you are telling them. Questions are a great temperature check to see how the conversation is going.
When you have finished explaining the issues and asking/answering questions, talk about how you, as a family, can make things better. If there is an issue about refugees, discuss what you can do to help the problem and take action. If there was a mass shooting in your area, talk about how you can help the victims, or start a no-bullying campaign at their school. Being active in your community and country helps your kids build a feeling of belonging to something bigger then themselves and know they can take action to help, rather than feel victimized.
While it is tempting to just shield our kids from these more serious topics, it only builds fear and uncertainty in your child. They are hearing about these things, even if it is just tidbits here and there. The more informed they are, the better prepared they are to deal with these issues and start making the world a better place.