Teaching Kids Awareness About Social Issues
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Everything in our world today is accessible with a click of a mouse or a push of a button. Nothing is off limits it seems. Thus teaching our children about social issues and having them aware of things we as parents want them to be aware of is a much more challenging thing than it used to be. We, as the adult in charge of the family, do not have the control to limit what our kids know and see anymore. Even if our child might not have an iPad or a smart phone allowing them to see everything, their friend or acquaintance probably does.
So how do we teach our kids about the things going on? An important part of that is to remove the word "kid" from our vocabulary and just put all the cards on the table, no topic is off limits. Of course, you would not have a conversation with a five year old about AIDS or HIV or school shootings like you would with any fifteen year old, but just because the eight-year-old is younger does not mean they do not have valid questions, comments and thoughts about things that are happening in the world around them.
So allow whatever is out there to be an alley way to good thoughtful discussion, not a dead end street into shutting them down. When opportunities arise, such as when a catastrophe should unfortunately happen, get out your laptop, sit down with your kid and start a genuine conversation with them about how they feel about what is going on. Many times they will surprise you with their views, their genuine innocence about things and they can teach us, the adults, sometimes a thing or two at the same time. Don't be afraid to dig in deep and discuss the hard issues. If you do not, someone else probably will, even if it is a teacher or worse, a misinformed friend or buddy, so find out first-hand what they think and then you have the opportunity to truly converse.
Your opinion isn't final
Remember when talking about social issues with your kids, you have to accept and appreciate that they have a brain and opinions, even if those opinions are not yours. Your opinions are probably not going to always match up with people you discuss things with, so don't make your child ever feel that they are "wrong" for the way they think. Listen intently to what they say and why they say it before you start to throw in your two cents worth or perhaps try to convince them that what they think isn't right. Allow them to have the safety to discuss issues openly with you. But if you tell them their opinion and views matter, make sure to follow through with it – don't let it just be lip service or they will shut down the conversations when they know you don’t mean what you say.
Watch the news together
Back in the 60s, dad would come home from work and many times he and mom would sit and watch the evening news together at 18:00 maybe before or after dinner and the kids would play and never be involved. Today, with the aid of DVR's we can watch things whenever we chose, and the news should be no exception. No longer do we have to catch it at 23:00 and maybe miss it because we went to bed before it came on. We have the luxury of viewing it when we have time, or even watching two or three days’ worth at a time if we want. And it opens up a whole different way of viewing with our children, whether it be we, as the adult, watch the entire show and perhaps re-view a certain important story we want to discuss with our children, or just watch the whole showing with our family, but with the beauty of a DVR, we can eliminate commercials so a half hour can be cut down to a 20 minute show, leaving more time in our day to talk about interesting stories we have seen.
The biggest thing to remember is no matter how big or small the story, or big or small the kid, anytime you open up a discussion between you, it is time well spent – as you are sharing and focusing on each other. Never forget that learning is a two way street, you to them and you from them as well.
Author Pam Johnson is a psychologist who studies the effects of the media on social issues. She also enjoys blogging and is a contributing writer for http://www.bestpsychologyschoolsonline.com/