At Carry the Future, we believe the future generation is ripe with world changers. As parents, mentors, teachers, and influencers, it’s our job to have tough conversations with our littles. It’s natural to want to shield and shelter those innocent hearts and minds from the ills of the world, but chances are, our kids have seen or heard about the current refugee crisis on social media or television or overheard our own conversations. When we pretend tragedies don’t exist, children have a tendency to fill in the gaps with their imagination, so it’s very important that we address even difficult topics with our children.
The goal is not to have all the answers, but to let your child know you are a safe place to talk about scary things. Open communication is of utmost importance. As Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood states: “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
It’s our presence of mind and heart that matters to our children. We don’t have to explain wars or politics, or fib that we can make the world safe. Mr. Roger’s continues his advice: “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
Here are some ways to open communication with your child:
- Let your child lead the conversation. It’s important to allow them to guide the topic and share their knowledge and misunderstandings. You may be surprised how much they know or what they misunderstand.
- Keep it age appropriate and in terms they can understand. Hannah Roberts, Carry the Future volunteer, suggests a great example for talking to younger children. Her child is very interested in dinosaurs and knows about migration. She explained that just as dinosaurs and animals need to travel long distances to find food, water or safety, people sometimes must do the same.
- Michelle Pitts, volunteer of Carry the Future, uses a different approach: she reminds her children that when they’re scared they go to their parents. When parents are afraid, they leave a scary place and go on a journey to a better place.
- Use activities or books to help them understand. Have the child think about a time they went on a trip. What favorite things did they pack? Now explain that refugees often have to leave their homes very quickly and can often only bring what they can carry. They may have to leave their favorite things behind.
- Give the child lots of comfort and affection while you’re talking. Snuggles and hugs can make the conversation much less scary.
- Don’t forget it’s important that kids know they can do something! Show tangible ways to help. They can collect diapers, make bears for refugee children, or do a lemonade stand and donate the money. There are so many ways. Let them be creative!
- Read a book about refugees together. Check out our Raising World Changers series for suggestions on age appropriate titles that you and you child can read together.
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes,” says Mr. Rogers.
Even though the refugee crisis may not affect your family directly, it’s important to talk to your child about it. By teaching your children to be compassionate global citizens, you’re making a difference in the world. Raising world changers is not easy, but it’s something we can all do to create the kind leaders of tomorrow.
Click here to make a monthly donation to Carry the Future so that we provide #hopethroughaid to refugees around the globe.