Shielding children from gory news

What do you do when all the media that confronts your child, the TV, newspapers and magazine, not to mention the internet, has nothing but bad news. Do you tell her as it is or do you gloss over facts and pretend you haven’t heard what she asked?

He had seen the paper and started reading the headline before I had a chance to hide it. “M-O-L-E-S-T” he read, pronouncing it as ‘molet’ before inevitably asking me the meaning. My six and half year old has developed a new love for reading and I had forgotten how trauma and disaster laden our news was, when I encouraged his attempt to read the newspaper.

What do you do when all the media that confronts your child, the TV, newspapers and magazine, not to mention the internet, has nothing but bad news. Do you tell her as it is or do you gloss over facts and pretend you haven’t heard what she asked?

“Being truthful is the only way to go,” says Priya, mum to a teen and a pre teen. “They will learn the truth sooner or later and then lose trust in the parent. if one parent is embarrassed or shy the other has to deal with stuff. Lying or pretending it doesn’t exist is not an option.”

It of course depends on the age of the child. If you have no choice it’s best to explain violent behaviour to a 5 or 6 year old in simpler terms instead of getting too preachy or graphic about it. They do not have the maturity to grasp it all anyway. At least that’s what we think!

For many parents, issues like rape, molestation and violence are difficult ones to address. Do you make your child aware of the bad, bad world outside and colour her sunny view much earlier than you should have or do you tackle them as and when situations demand?

Most moms I spoke to seem to be mulling over this, especially given the kind of news doing the rounds these days.

Anamika, mum to a 9 and 13 year old says she tries to explain the seriousness but in less shocking terms. “I don’t want them to be too scared of the issue and the dirty world outside and don’t want them to feel that everyone is bad and the entire society is corrupt either.”

Some believe it’s best to make them aware once they reach a certain age. Deeksha, mum to a 10 year old says she has started being honest with her daughter. “when my daughter was younger, I would gloss over such subjects and not say much. But she’s 10 now and for the last two years, I am more forthcoming and open about topics like molestation and child abuse. Kids need to be aware and alert. So even if she skips something in the news, I make sure we touch upon the topic and discuss it without sensationalising it. I tend to do it in a matter of fact and informative way using words which she can understand and relate to.”

There is of course this overwhelming need in most of us to protect our kids. I remember not switching on the TV until my son was asleep when the Taj burnt in Mumbai in 2008. Of course he was much younger then but old enough to understand fire and explosion when he saw it.

A friend in Mumbai with a 5 year old did the same. When her son asked why the schools were closed she was about to give a roundabout answer when he said: I know. It’s because those people on TV are shooting right?

“I realised what a fool I had been. Because kids imbibe and understand more of what’s going around than we can ever guess. I have never tried to hide anything from him ever again.”

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