Talking to Your Children about the News

Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford has been making headlines because of his use of illegal drugs and alcohol, and his inappropriate comments about oral sex have been quoted on TV news shows across the country


 

Thanks, Mayor Rob Ford, for making it just a little bit harder to be a parent. Of course, Ford is just the latest round of politicians and other celebrities behaving badly and ending up in the media. When the Ford story is old news, there will be someone else getting into trouble, and your children are going to have questions about what they see and hear.

How can you respond? Of course, the approach you take depends on the age of your child, but here are some guidelines:

1. Turn the questions back to them. If your child says he heard that the Mayor was using drugs, for example, ask him what HE thinks about that. Would he vote for someone who used illegal drugs? What does he think should happen in this situation?

2. Be honest, but keep it at your child’s level. If your child asks about sexual allegations or comments, for example, you might say that the person said something rude or that what he said had to do with private things.

3. Children between the ages of seven and ten are often very concerned with fairness. They may be bothered by what they see as “bad” behaviour that goes unpunished. You may be able to point out to them strategies various people are using in an attempt to resolve the problem, to reassure them that justice is valued even if the system isn’t perfect.

4. If an awkward question is asked in an inappropriate time or place, it’s fine to suggest that you’ll talk later: “That’s kind of a complicated topic, Ethan, so I’d rather discuss it after we get home.” Just make sure you DO discuss it later.

5. Keep things simple. Your child probably isn’t interested in various political agendas or the nitty-gritty of addiction. Just respond to the question that was asked: “What are they talking about? Well, that person was drinking too much beer and it made him act silly, and people think he should stop.  Do you want to help me make the salad now?”

It’s tempting to side-step these issues, but they actually give you a great opportunity to talk with your child - especially a pre-teen or tween - about your own values and expectations.

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