Talking with kids about planes that fall from the sky

Sometimes the world makes me tired.

This morning while I was wracking my brain for camp lunch ideas I suddenly realized that my seven year old daughter was standing in the kitchen with me. She wasn’t doing anything, just standing with the vacant expression that appears on her face when the wheels are turning in her head or she is in TV-watching bliss.

I asked her what she was doing and she said she was listening to the radio.

I am a news junkie. I don’t know if it comes from the stacks of newspapers that were delivered to our house when I was growing up – my mum is a librarian and used to go through all the papers and cut out articles on various topics. (She still occasionally hands or mails me articles that might be of interest to me.) Or it may come from my grandfather needing to have the 6 pm news on the TV at family dinners so he stay on top of what was going on in the world.

Now I get my news from the paper delivered to our house every morning (yup I am still a paper person), twitter and facebook throughout the day and the radio whenever I am at home.

So what was so interesting on the radio that my daughter had stopped in her tracks to listen to on the radio? It was the news. They were talking about the latest developments about the plane crash in Ukraine.

I asked her what she was hearing and she said that a plane had fallen out of the sky. I asked if she knew why it had fallen and she said they didn’t know and they were trying to find out why. I asked if she had any questions about what she had heard and she said no.

I was grateful that she hadn’t said anything about bodies rotting in the sun and that I didn’t have to discuss global geopolitics and reasons why someone would shoot a passenger aircraft out of the sky.

The next news item was about the latest bombing runs in Gaza. I turned the radio off. That one is even more complicated.

The girls don’t seem scarred or scared about what they hear on the news. They absorb bits and pieces and I think much of it doesn’t seem real to them since there is no evidence of impact on their daily lives. Radio has no pictures which I also think lessens the impact. They have not seen images of the wreckage or the dead in Ukraine or Gaza or any of the other conflicts currently underway in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, etc.

There is violence in the world and wars and terrorist attacks will continue. The challenge is to help our kids to grow up with an interest in and perhaps understanding of the causes of conflicts like these. The understanding or willingness to seek understanding will also help them to seek resolutions and peace.

It is so easy to let fear creep in and take hold when news of people dying in these ways is at the top of the hour. The same is true and perhaps more likely with news of car crashes and things closer to home. I travel for work in cars and trains and by plane once a month and I typically commute to the office either by bus or by bike. This morning I was most concerned that she would be afraid that my plane could fall out of the sky, just like I am concerned when there is news of a cyclist being hit and killed. I don’t want my kids to be afraid that I might not be coming back every time I leave the house to go to work. Of course I am saddened by the loss of life in all of those cases. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. As a parent my primary concern has to be how to help my kids process what they see and hear in their lives.

Some weeks though, the world just makes me tired. So much violence and so many people innocent people killed. Some because they work and even fight for a better lives for themselves, their kids and their country as was the case at the start of the civil war in Syria. Others are shot out of the sky without warning because of a conflict 30,000 feet below them.

I am lucky though. On days when I am fatigued by the world and all the challenges in it, I get to come home to hope.

These little girls are the future and if I do my job right, they will help to make the world a better place.



How do you help your kids process tragedies in the news?


About DadGoesRound
I am a Canadian father of three girls and blog about Fatherhood, Kids and Current Affairs at

4 Responses to Talking with kids about planes that fall from the sky

  1. P.Bear says:

    I personally never watch/read news. It is mostly filled with negative events that really does not affect my daily life. If something that can affect our lives is happening, I am sure enough people will notify me about it. However, when my girls notice events in the news we generally, just like with other questions, just tell them the facts and leave out the gory.

  2. Pingback: The Luxury of Peace | Dad Goes Round

  3. The world does seem particularly messed up lately. It’s sad and disturbing. How much we tell or explain to our children is a difficult decision that each parent must make individually.

  4. DadGoesRound says:

    I felt pretty good about the asking questions approach. Instead of assuming that she had absorbed everything in the newscast I asked what she had heard and discovered that she had only processed bits and pieces of the story – not unlike when I tell her or ask her to do something. It made it much easier to just respond to what she was hearing rather than trying to explain the whole situation. I need to remember to do that more often. Start with questions and give the answers required.

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