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How To Talk To Kids About Today's Terrible News Cycle

"I encourage parents to discuss Canadian values."

Getting through the news cycle these days can leave many adults feeling mentally exhausted, but for curious children, it can mean many unanswered questions.

Children can get their news from all kinds of sources, but Dr. Jillian Roberts, author and associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria, says there is a right time to bring up topics like shootings, terrorism and hate.

"With a young child, I would tend to address these topics only if they child brought them up," she tells The Huffington Post Canada.

"With an older child, I would engage in a thoughtful conversation about them in response to current events."

And when you are having these conversations, ones that can be emotional and difficult, it's always important to remind children of their safety.

It's also just as important to teach children about hate and racism, as well as teaching them how to stand up for others who are being bullied.

Below, Roberts goes through some common questions parents may have about these discussion topics and how to bring them up with your kids.

Talking about violent news and protests in general: If you're wondering whether you should bring up topics like terror attacks at home or mass shootings with your children, Roberts says it really depends on the child.

"It would depend on the age of the child, and it would also depend on the personality and temperament of individual children. As a general rule, I would not recommend bringing it up to young children under the age of 10," she says.

"However, if your child should see something online or on the news, you would want to make sure that you gave them a chance to ask any questions they might have. You would also want to make sure that your child felt safe and secure.

Talking to children over 10 about these topics: "An older child, like over 10, would likely be hearing about attacks from other children or on the news. With these children, you would want to make sure that they too had a chance to ask any questions they might have," she says.

Roberts says you may want to explain socio-cultural and historical context surrounding events, ensuring the kids still feel safe and secure.

Should young children watch the news? Roberts doesn't recommend this idea — in fact, she believes it's way too much information for young kids.

If you have older children, watching the news with them may be a good idea, especially if they have follow-up questions.

What to do if your child is scared of being bullied: "I would encourage parents to discuss Canadian values," Roberts says. "We live in a proudly multicultural and diverse Canadian society... being bullied for being Muslim, for example, is wrong."

It's also important to teach kids how to be advocates here, especially how to help someone who is being bullied.

If your child brings up U.S. President Donald Trump: "I would address this topic if a child were to bring it up. I would explain that the new president of the United States has different values than we do as Canadians and that many people around the world are worried about what is happening in the United States," Roberts says.

But more importantly, ask if your child feels worried.

"Talk about advocacy. Talk about ways the child can be an advocate for peace and inclusion at school and on the playground."

The consequences of not talking about the news with children: "A real significant consequence is that you miss the opportunity to connect and engage with your child," Roberts says.

"If your child does not feel connected and engaged with you, that child may turn to other sources of information to explore their questions and concerns."

Should I bring my child to a protest? "I think it is important to stand up for the values that we hold dear as Canadians. Sitting back and doing nothing is a very passive stance," she says.

Thinking about issues thoughtfully and participating in community activism is a way of teaching children how to be strong, resilient and empowered, she adds.

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