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Should we protect our children from the news?



Assassination of Samuel Paty, attack on the basilica of Nice, in Vienna, re-containment … Lately, she has been eager to close the hatches and to curl up with the family like a submarine: newspapers left in blisters, television off , silent radio at the time of the morning breakfast …

There is a strong temptation to spare our children the dramatic events that mark the news of the moment. Do young ears have to know the knives which slit the throats of teachers or of the faithful? As parents, shouldn’t we protect the little ones from the waves of horror that overwhelm us?

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For Serge Tisseron, the question is not so much ” duty “ that of ” power “ do it. Keeping our children under wraps remains an illusion. “They are immersed in the news as much as we are, reminds the psychiatrist. If they were not told about these events directly, they were able to catch snippets of conversation between adults. “ Or friends in the playground will be responsible for informing them.

“Either way, they heard about what happened. “ And if we think we have succeeded in sparing them, the worry that inhabits – even fleetingly – our looks, our gestures remains. And that has not escaped them. “If the parents cannot name their anxieties, the little ones will feel it”, warns Richard Marchand, family therapist.

Start from the child’s questions

Talk, explain… Ok, but how? “Parents must detoxify information to make it assimilable by the child, summarizes Serge Tisseron. In fact, it’s like grinding very fine vegetables to make them digestible for a little one. The younger the child, the more it will take him mill the info. “

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In fact, we will not speak in the same way about the assassination of Samuel Paty to a 5 year old child as to a 10 year old child. For Serge Tisseron, before the age of 4 and a half, it is above all a question of reassuring the child. “We must tell him that everything is in place so that such things do not happen again, explains the psychiatrist. Around the age of 4 and a half, children begin to understand that people around them may have a different view of the world from their own. This is called the theory of mind. We can therefore, from that moment on, ask him what he understood about the event in order to initiate the dialogue. “ Because the goal is to start from the child’s questions.

It is not in fact a question of saying everything. “Evoking the beheading of Samuel Paty feeds the fantasy machine but brings nothing to understanding”, considers Gwenaëlle Boulet, editor-in-chief ofAstrapi and “Hi Info! », A podcast for breaking news produced in partnership with France Info. Richard Marchand agrees with the journalist: “The parent should not be the bearer of violence, but name things and share emotions. Until 9-10 years old, I don’t see the point of talking about the act itself. “

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Better to ask the child what he understood about the event. “In all cases, we must start from fairly vague formulations so that the child can be grafted on”, estimates Serge Tisseron. And from there, start the discussion. Without feeling obliged to pose as an omniscient parent. “The adult must not think that, in order to talk about it, he must have an answer to everything, reassures Gwenaëlle Boulet. On the “why” of such crimes, we can quite simply say that people commit acts that sometimes escape us. “ Without forgetting to recall the exceptional dimension of such events.

Less flow, more quality

In these times when the news is raging, how do you manage media consumption at home? One thing is certain: it is better not to leave the tap of the news channels open. Gwenaëlle Boulet recalls the anguish that can arouse in a small effect ” endlessly “ of some images. “The notion of repetition is difficult to understand for him. Each time, it appears to him like a new image… ”

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As for the television news, Serge Tisseron believes that it is not suitable below the age of 9 years. “News has evolved a lot. The images can be violent and sometimes not very contextualized because they are aimed at an adult audience. This can lead the child to believe that events are happening near their home, or that the same can happen to them. “ After 9 years, the psychiatrist believes, the child can be warned: “You can stay with us if you want, but if you see things that shock you, you don’t have to stay. “ Without forgetting to talk about it again afterwards.

What if, finally, the question of the relation of the youngest to the news brought us back to our own way of absorbing it? “These tips that I give to children are only valid if the parents apply them first to themselves, emphasizes Serge Tisseron. Better to focus on information that has passed through journalists who have taken a step back. “ And start, as a family, perhaps less continuously, but focusing on the quality of information.

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