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Talking to Children About Brexit

01/07/2016 11:53

A little knowledge can be a scary thing. With children waking up on Friday wanting to know if they can still be friends with the French boy in their class, or whether they will have to move house, whether they will ever be able to go on holiday again, it's important to understand the impact that Brexit has on children. With 24 hour media and the conversations that are going on between friends, colleagues and family members it's impossible to shelter children from issues and it's much better to be prepared to talk to children about what's going on, answering their questions simply and in an age appropriate manner. it's also fine to admit to not knowing the answer. Having said that, it's not a good idea to over-burden children with adult concerns so a good rule of thumb is to let the children lead the conversation. If they are interested enough to ask questions, they deserve our time and our best attempt at answering the questions, but do it slowly and don't give too much information at one time. Children will simply stop asking questions when they have got the answer they wanted or have lost interest in the topic so a long lecture on the pros and cons of the EU is not the best approach. You can always check by asking a child if they have any more questions or if your answer helped.

Preschool Children

Young, preschool children will take their lead from their parents and may not have much more than a passing curiosity about all the fuss that's happening around them. Try and reassure them that everything will be fine and address any specific worries they have. If you disagree with family members on Brexit, try to keep any discussion civilised and issue-based, not personal. Children at this age get frightened if they think people they love are fighting.

Primary School Children

As children's worlds expand with school, they will be open to many different influence and opinions and as some of these will be contradictory, it's not surprising that children may be confused and worried. The playground is a hotbed for rumours and misunderstandings as children try and sound more grown up than they are to their friends. Encourage your children to ask you about anything they're confused by, and not to accept everything their friends say as truth.

Older Children and Teenagers

The Brexit fall out is likely to impact teens and young adults the most and they will understandably want to ask questions both about the immediate effects and longer term consequences. Try to establish what they already know and what they need help understanding. Don't patronise and respect their opinions - you won't be able to help them make sense of things or guide their decisions and opinions if they don't feel like you're hearing their side of things. Try to help teenagers critically evaluate the sources of information so they can access factual, non-sensationalised sources and make up their own minds. Parents can play a valuable role as a sounding board or sense-checker for teenagers, but it's important that teens are able to form their own opinions and have those opinions respected even if they're different from the parents'.

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