Background Noise

Background Noise

I am a news junkie, curious to learn everything I can about what is happening in Iraq. But if a radio is on in the kitchen or in the car, or the television news is repeating itself in the background, we can be sure that our kids are listening. They may appear to be reading a book, or playing a game, or plowing through homework, but the drone of information is seeping into them, raising anxieties. News in the background can escalate fears without providing answers or context.

I turn the background media off whenever the kids are around. If I watch or listen in their presence, I do it with them intentionally, being careful to pay at least as much attention to them and their cues as to the news itself. I want to create an environment where they will ask their questions and express their concerns, so that we can talk about them together. I’m especially careful that any reassurances I make are deeply true, and that I don’t make hollow promises whose outcome is beyond my control.

I tell true stories of the past and the present to help put today’s events into the long context of history, and to help us remember the wonder and goodness and beauty in the world.

The coming weeks could be a time of information overload for kids. Consider turning down the background noise, so you and your children can hear each other’s hearts.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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