Life with a Preschooler: How Much Radio News is OK?

Family Matters on 10.04.11
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W and I have a morning routine: I turn on NPR and make some French press coffee. He eats a waffle while pretending to be Batman or Captain America. After four minutes are up, he uses his superhero powers to push the press on my coffee.

It's a good routine, but lately there's been a snag in the program. Usually W is so immersed in saving the good guys from the bad guys, that he doesn't click into the stream of current events - sometimes negative, often scary -- pouring from our kitchen radio. Yet for the past few weeks, he's been interrupting his own stream of consciousness role playing to ask me a question about something he heard on the news. Questions like: "Mama, why did she say 'kill?'" and "what did President Obama do?"

So far, I've been navigating my three-year old's questions by tuning the radio to an all music station, explaining that the news is for grown ups and reminding him that no, killing is not good and that President Obama is working to keep everyone in America safe.

According to my go-to child psychology expert, Sharon Peters of Parents Helping Parents, I'm on the right track. "There isn't an acceptable news station for children," she says. "The news is something that children should be hearing in your voice and the voice that's coming out of the radio is speaking to adults not kids. It should be filtered." Peters reminded me that a three or four year old may not be able to distinguish the news they hear on the radio or TV from the reality of their own life. "I think NPR on low volume may be okay, but you may want to turn off everything and explain current events to your child in your own way." 

Photo: S. Diddy/Creative Commons

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