I’ve stopped listening to the news when I have the kids in the car.
Over the summer, my older two children had become news junkies. They would ask me to turn on the radio each time they got in the car. They would be disappointed if there wasn’t a news broadcast for them. Short snippets of news would elicit comments and questions that would lead to interesting car rides.
Now, when they ask to turn on the radio, I put on music or a podcast instead.
I began to think about this when I switched back on the radio to NPR as the kids piled out of the car. Why have I stopped? Am I creating a bubble for them rather than exposing them to the outside world? Are there conversations that I am afraid to have?
It was the last question that really hit me. As a school psychologist, I have had a lot of difficult conversations with other people’s children. I’ve counseled students and families through grief, been a crisis responder when unthinkable things impact a school community, and worked with children grappling with divorce, drug use, and broken homes. I’m not a stranger to difficult conversations, yet I’m avoiding talking with my kids about the news.
Perhaps, it’s because I’m still dealing with my own trauma, my own fears. The past months have brought bomb scares to my children’s day school, to our JCC, and to other JCCs where we once exercised and sent our children. My Facebook feed is filled with images of swastikas and toppled gravestones. The world has changed and it doesn’t feel like it was for the better.
I grew up thinking that the Holocaust had been the seminal event that had said to the world that genocide and antisemitism were no longer acceptable on the world stage. We chanted “Never again” and thought that the world was listening. Although, now it seems they did not hear it as well as we would have liked.
I know that I cannot hide my children from the news and I know that I shouldn’t be. Yet, I struggle with knowing how many difficult to explain things will flow out of the radio when I turn the news on at the top of the hour. I wonder how quickly will I reach for the volume button if my cowardice overtakes me.
I can’t keep my head in the sand forever. It’s time to talk with my children about the world around and listen to their questions and their fears. We do live in unsettling times and no matter what I do, my children will sense it and feel it. Maybe it’s better if I’m there when it happens.
I may still lower the volume from time to time when a story comes on that isn’t appropriate for them. But, I need to commit to sharing why and answering their questions. I can’t hide them from the world, but I can make them (and perhaps me, too) more resilient and more informed.
It’s time to turn the news back on.