In our virtual world, good news often goes by unnoticed while bad news seems to be amplified a lot. We see and read about it on social media: hatred, negativity, and vile. But, be that as it may, we also can't ignore the convenience technology has brought us.
Does it worry parents that there's not a lot of happy thoughts going around? Of course! Suicide incidents are increasing and according to 2016 study, even children as young as 5 years old are at risk for taking their own lives. A more recent study on the impact of Netflix's original 13 Reasons Why, a show that explores the mind of a high school girl who killed herself, revealed its influence with the spike of searches on "how to commit suicide" online.
We need to show our kids how to see the positive in every circumstance. "When a child is optimistic, she sees the good side in every situation, to go on even in difficult situations," Llewelyn Issa dela Cruz, psychologist and counselor at De La Salle University, told SmartParenting.com.ph.
We can help our children see the glass half-full, rather than half-empty. Here's what we can do:
Put things in perspective. If you have kids who are old enough to use the internet or be on social media, make sure you talk to them about the unpleasant things they see online or in the news. "How you respond to news makes a difference in how kids process it, too. Help your kids put things in perspective...When you 'right-size' things, it lessens kids' fears and restores hope," writes Caroline Knorr of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that provides unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices.
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Talk about what you're grateful for. Research has shown that expressing thanks makes one feel more optimistic. Knorr suggests families take the time to share what they are grateful for to help remind them there are still positive things happening in the world amidst the chaos. "Encourage them to persevere against obstacles and to have compassion for others." Knorr explains that building a strong character in your child will be his or her anchor when everything seems to go south.
Teach kids to stand up for themselves. Instill in your children that they have the power to help or stop the bullying instead of just watching idly. Empower them by teaching them ways on how to fight the culture of bullying -- call out the bully or cyber bully, report them, stand up for the victim, or just let the victim know that someone cares. They can fight back with respect. "It’s truly everyone’s responsibility to keep the internet a positive, productive place. Standing up to cyberbullies shows you believe you can make a change," Knorr explains.
Call out fake news and hate speech. Censorship can only work up to when your child reaches a certain age, so teach kids to think and analyze situations and statements so they can decipher on their own what is fake or legit. Ask them questions to practice their critical thinking skills. Instead of just spoon-feeding facts or saying "because I said so," help them understand the points and let them come to a conclusion themselves. Teach them to fact-check, suggests Knorr. Call out negative speech. Remind them that the same etiquette rules in real life apply online.
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Trust your child to make decisions. "Entrusting children to complete [age-appropriate] tasks makes them feel capable," child psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., who is also the author of Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking, told Parents. Let go and give your kids some wiggle room to decide and take risks on their own. Don't also immediately come to the rescue; wait and see how they'll handle a situation first. Your youngster won't get it all right all the time; it takes time and experience to navigate the world. Use his mistakes as teaching opportunities.
Be a role model to your child. When you react negatively to a situation, your kids can pick that up, too. Try to be calm, suggests parenting expert and child and family therapist Meri Wallace of Psychology Today. Lessen the whiny complaints, don't resort to name-calling, and instead focus on the silver lining. It's okay to be upset, but discuss it with you child after. It could also help your kids deal with their own emotions. Make sure your child also sees you recover and working towards a solution rather than sulking. It's always better to show kids than to just tell them how to be good people.