Angela Ardolino
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Wednesday
Feb102016

Talking to your kids about tragic events

It can be difficult to watch a news broadcast without hearing bad news, especially with recent events. Whether you are trying to stay informed on international matters or just trying to catch up on celebrity gossip, your kids are curious about what they are hearing on the news. Trying to explain the intricacies of war, natural disasters, or even a celebrity scandal can be increasingly difficult– especially if your child is younger.

So how can we make the news an educational experience for our kids, instead of something scarring and traumatic for life?

Before you explain it, think of how it is perceived 
The most important thing to remember when exposing your kids to the news, is that children perceive things much differently than an adult, according to KidsHealth.org. A news report about something like a school shooting or a bombing, for example, can make them fear that it will happen to them and it can cause severe anxiety. They also may be afraid of things as simple as a thunderstorm by watching the news– especially when newscasters use terms like “deadly” and “severe”.

Take a step back when viewing the news, and think of how your child might perceive it. Try to find news programs that do not use sensationalized, loud, or particular disturbing images. You might want to check out a news website and watch it alone at a later time, or watch short clips of reports to decide if that it a channel worth bringing into your living room. Sometimes, there is no way to sugar-coat or dull the news down, but trying to find the right TV news station that doesn’t make every single story completely terrifying can help. You can also encourage your kids to read the newspaper, which you can easily monitor before they see it.

Break it down into simpler terms and be proactive
It is important to keep your kids informed on what is going on with the news, but you should also try to explain it to them in terms that they can understand, according to KidsHealth.org. Ask your kids what they think about current events, how it makes them feel, and what they think the people involved should do.

Ask them what they can do to help as well. Sometimes, especially in a traumatic event or a natural disaster, it can be easy to feel powerless and small, which will cause your child to have more fear. By helping your child find some way to help, no matter how small, you are empowering them against fear. Be open to their questions as well and don’t be afraid to tell them your opinion of a news story.

It is also important to teach your child the context of a news story. Is this an isolated incident being reported? Something more regular? What are the chances that your child will ever encounter what they are discussing on the report? Your kids should be informed, but they should also learn to use the news as a reference point for the world around them. If they don’t understand a report’s context, they may think that tragedies happen every day to every person and that is not realistic.

Filter what types of media they consume
KidsHealth.org suggests that you watch TV news with your kids so that you can filter it, and then turn it off once you have seen the report. Discourage your kids from watching the same report over and over. If you want to follow a story, perhaps you would like to keep up with breaking news during a tragedy for example, consider downloading an app on your phone or visiting a news website so that your child is not constantly exposed to it.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests letting your child know that it is okay to be upset or even angry after a traumatic event in the news, but to field how much information your kids are taking in. You should also assure your kids that you will do everything you can to keep them and the rest of your family safe.

Another thing you can do to help your kids stay informed without staying afraid or confused, is to encourage them to consider their news sources as they grow older. KidsHealth.org suggests that you teach your kids to consider why something is newsworthy or why it is on the air. For example, was a segment on the air just to boost ratings, or is it something that will actually have an effect on their lives? When a teen or child understands the mission of the news, they can more accurately choose a good news source and can feel in control of what they are exposing themselves. This is a good thing for parents to consider as well– is the news source you are watching just trying to boost ratings, or are they trying to keep you informed and safe?

Beware of overplaying the news. Especially in matters of extreme tragedy, like a school shooting for example, we can be tempted as adults to be sucked into what is called the “24 hour news cycle”. When we watch these news stories over and over, it can instill fear in kids and cause them to become a little obsessed and afraid of the tragedy, making them think that it will happen to them.

It is true that knowledge is power, and the news can be a powerful and highly useful tool for teaching your kids about the world around them. With open communication, the right news sources, and a little monitoring, having a news informed child can be a great thing!

If your kids or teens want to find ways to get involved after local events or tragedies, visit The Children’s Board online.

Friday
Jan222016

Going Green with your kids

Teaching your kids about sustainable living is an important part of ensuring that our Earth outlives us, them and future generations to come. It may seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be. There are a number of ways to teach your children how to protect and care for our Earth and the environment around us.

Be a Role Model
The easiest way to teach your children about sustainability (and anything, for that matter) is to be a positive role model.

Children are like sponges, and they notice the little things. If you want to teach your children about protecting the environment, it’s important that you first do this yourself. After all, “do as I say, not as I do,” has never worked too well with kids.

Look for ways that you can reduce waste or electricity in your home. This doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, turn off lights when you leave a room in the house, or walk or ride bikes instead of driving, whenever possible. These small actions will send a powerful message to your children.

Use Recycled or Reusable Products
Children will also take notice of the types of products that you use around your home. Reusable water bottles, for instance, are an easy way to reduce waste and teach children how small decisions can make a big impact.

If you can’t find a reusable product to fit your needs, make sure that whatever you choose is made of recycled materials and can be recycled after use. With the green movement being so popular right now, there are a number of products that can be used to reduce your, and your child’s, carbon footprint.

Create Teachable Moments
While implementing green practices may seem easy, it’s important that you teach your child why you are making these changes in your home. Creating teachable moments can be as simple as explaining to your children why they must bring their water bottles home with them from school, and why you do not use the kind of water bottles that you throw away.

In our home, we have several recycling bins and have taught our children which types of products go in each. Now, recycling has become a habit in our home. We no longer have to ask our children to take their old school papers and put them in the bin for paper products.

Make it Fun
Living a sustainable life and reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be boring. There are a number of ways to make this a fun project for the whole family. For example, use recycled materials to do a family art project, or go to the park instead of watching a movie.

At Little Owl Learning Academy, we use recycled materials whenever possible. Items such as paper towel or toilet paper rolls can be used for a number of art projects, while recycled egg cartons can be a great way to distribute paint or smaller supplies. This is just one way that our facility has chosen to support sustainability in our everyday operations.

Planning fun activities is also a great way to keep your kids’ attention when you are teaching them about recycling or reducing waste.

Consider planting a vegetable garden together as a family and have your children help water and tend to the seedlings. When the vegetables are ready to be harvested, your children can help you gather the fruits of your labor and prepare a meal with them.

You may be surprised by how engaged they are in the process, and how much they can learn from a fun family activity.

Sindy Ortiz is the Director of Little Owl Learning Academy (LOLA), a high-tech, eco-friendly childcare facility located in Trinity.

 

Friday
Jan222016

Volunteering With Your Kids

The holidays are here and as your kids gather all of their new toys and fill their toy boxes and closets, it is also a great time to teach your kids to give back. Volunteering with the family not only helps to better the community, but also can give your kids the confidence to want to volunteer more as they get older.  

When it comes to getting your kids to help the community, it is fun to think outside of the box. Aside from collecting and donating canned goods, there are tons of ways to get the kids involved in volunteering.

Donate Clothes and Toys

Over 13 million children live in poverty, according to Toys for Tots, which means that millions of children will wake on Christmas morning with no gifts to open and very little to look forward to. One of the best ways to teach your kids how to give back is to help the other children who won’t be visited by Santa this year. Have your child go through their toys and their clothes, picking which ones they would like to give away. Sometimes, when kids are donating toys they might get upset because they just think you are taking their toys away, so have them write a letter to the person you are giving the toys to. Having them write a letter to that child will instantly give your kids a sense of what they are doing and how they are really helping someone else.

Another great way to give back with your kids is to check out an Angel Tree and have your children choose a name. They will get the age of a boy or girl and will enjoy going with you to the store to pick out a present for the child they chose from the Angel Tree. It can give them a sense of how they are helping and who they are helping if they see that little boys and girls just like them don’t have toys.

Volunteer at a Shelter

“Volunteering with your kids touches hearts, teaches important life lessons and engraves fond, lifelong memories of family bonding,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. She also added that understanding and participating in activities to benefit the community is crucial to weaving one’s moral fiber.

A great way to volunteer is to give back at a local shelter, like Metropolitan Ministries. There, not only will kids get the chance to see the people they are helping, but they can do everything from participate in a clothing or toy drive to actually serving those in need.

Ask Kids How They Want to Give Back

Your kids may surprise you when it comes to giving back. Instead of telling them what to do, ask them how they think they could help someone. They might surprise you by saying something as simple as handing out bottles of water to the homeless, or they might run into their closets on their own to start picking things to give. If they aren’t sure, give them some examples and let them decide how they want to give back.

If they are able to give back in a way that makes them feel proud and way that they truly connect with, they are more likely to want to go back and volunteer again or donate again. This can lead your child to living a very happy and fulfilled life, all while bettering the community.

Another important thing to remember is that giving back should be a family affair. It is not only children that are going without this season, but teens and adults as well. Anything you can give, whether it is an old pair of jeans or canned food helps.

For more information on where or how to give back, visit TBParenting.com.

by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting, TBParenting.com