In times like this, it can be hard to explain the News to our children. In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Andrea Barbalich, the editor-in-chief of The Week Junior. The Week Junior is a brand new magazine that simplifies the news for kids. Andrea and I are discussing how to bring discussions around the news and current events into our families.
Denaye Barahona: Hi there. It's episode 213 and today we're talking about kids and the news. How do we expose kids to the news? How do we spark curiosity and how to find a balance? Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler, more intentional life. In this show we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.
Denaye Barahona: Hi there for tuning in this week we are talking about kids and the news. I have an interview for you. I'm talking with Andrea Barbalich, who is the editor in chief of a brand new news magazine for kids. It's called The Week Junior. Before we get into today's episode and my chat with Andrea here is a quick 60 second word from our sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is StoryWorth. It makes it fun and easy for your loved ones to share their stories. You'll get weekly emailed story prompts, questions that you never thought to ask, and at the end of the year they get all their stories bound in a beautiful hardcover book. I love StoryWorth and I think it's an amazing way to strengthen your family bonds and grow closer to your loved ones. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the number of stories and life lessons that we want to pass on and we don't have a good format to do it.
Denaye Barahona: Enter StoryWorth. We've gifted StoryWorth to numerous family members in our lives and it definitely makes my list of best clutter free gifts, so I invite you to try it out, connect with your family and discover untold stories with StoryWorth. You can get started right away without the need for shipping. Just go to story worth.com/families and you'll get $10 off. Again, go to storyworth.com/families for $10 off. We've talked recently on the podcast about how the news can feel so overwhelming even to us as adults and it can be hard to know what we should share with our kids and what we should keep away from them. So I'm so happy to welcome Andrea Barbalich the editor in chief of the week junior magazine. Andrea is an expert at these things, kids and news and I think you're really going to enjoy her insight today. In the end it's about finding the balance that works for your family, that I am grateful for resources like the week that can help to give us ideas and launching off points to talk to our kids and to simplify them in ways that they can really understand. Hi Andrea. Thanks so much for chatting with me today. Oh, thank you for having me today. So tell me a little bit about yourself and your work.
Andrea Barbalich: I am the editor in chief of The Week Junior, which is a new weekly news magazine for children ages eight to 14 and we just shipped our fourth issue to the printer this week. So we are really brand new and this is a magazine that began in the, in the United Kingdom four and a half years ago. And they've had tremendous success there. And now it's launching here in the United States. And our mission is to help children make sense of the world and help them find their place in it. And when we planned out when we would launch this magazine, we never dreamed what would be going on in the world. And so it's turned out that the timing really is perfect because there is so much going on in the world that is so confusing right now. And I'm thrilled that The Week Junior can be there for children to help them understand what's happening.
Andrea Barbalich: It really is such an amazing time to be launching this media outlet for kids because I think that they are more than ever, they're impacted. They're feeling the news themselves. More than ever, every single child is being impacted by what's going on in the world. And that's not something that's so obvious to kids the way that the news and the broader world impacts them. Well, there's no question that children are being affected there. This is, well, first of all, it's an unprecedented world event that no one has ever been through. So, and it is affecting children's daily lives. They're not going to school. Their activities have been canceled, their parents are working from home in many cases or in other cases continued to go to jobs that put them at risk. Um, they can't see their friends. They are unable to do the things that they normally enjoy doing on a daily basis.
Andrea Barbalich: So this is absolutely having a direct impact on them. And the other thing that's unusual about it is that this isn't something that is, has happened. It's not an, uh, a traumatic event that has happened and that's ends. This is ongoing and no one knows how long this will be going on. So that is also a difficult aspect. Yeah. And the uncertainty that we feel as parents, we are handing off to our children often without knowing it. I think especially when we have young kids, we feel like if we just shield them from the news, we're going to protect them from it. But they can feel it in our, they can feel our stress or nonverbal body signals even if we aren't talking to them. They, they absolutely can. They pick up on it. Everything that's going on in the household. And right now everyone is in the house together in many cases, you know, instead of being at school or, or at an after school activity and having your parents at work, everyone is together 24 / 7 and so, you know, there's really no, there's nowhere to hide.
Andrea Barbalich: And you know, I, I know that parents feel that they want to shield their children from difficult things, but the fact is, especially in the age group for our magazine, which is ages eight to 14 children do know what's happening. They are online, they read, they hear news on TV, they're hear their parents talking, they're on, you know, they're texting with their friends. And so you really can't shield them 100% but what you can do is help them understand what's happening by speaking to them in a clear and simple way. And being truthful. Children really, really can figure out when they're, you know, when people are not being straight with them. So that is something that we strive for every week in our magazine is to bring them the news in a simple and straightforward and clear and calm manner that is reassuring rather than frightening.
Andrea Barbalich: Yes. And I feel like if we're not talking to them, they're going to be picking up bits and pieces and drawing their own interpretations, which may or may not be accurate depending on how confusing everything is in the world right now.
Denaye Barahona: You're 100% right about that. Children will fill in the blanks with their own imagination and often the things they're thinking in their head are worse than the actual reality of what's going on. So that's another reason why it's important for children to have a guide through a difficult time like this. You know, of course parents are the number one guide for their children, but I hope the magazine can be helpful to children as well, in addition to being helpful to their parents. A lot of times parents want to have discussions with their kids about difficult things and they really aren't sure what to say.
Andrea Barbalich: So I hope that parents are reading the magazine alongside their children and that conversations are inspired and that talking within the family goes on that that is another way to help children through this. Right. So can you tell me a little bit rewinding, I'm thinking about my experience with the news when I was a child and what that was like, and I found myself reading, I loved reading the newspaper as a kid, but it was the local newspaper. It was the things that I felt more connected to that I think I was attracted to. What was your experience as a kid, Andrea? What sort of news were you interested in? Well, I wanted to be a journalist since I was in seventh grade, and I'm one of the few people who decided on a career early on and stuck to it. I love to write and I love to read.
Andrea Barbalich: And we had the local paper delivered to our home, which I would read. Everyone watched the same news on TV every night at six o'clock and you know, the whole country was having a shared of experience of that evening news. My family also had a lot of discussions around the dinner table about things that were happening in the world, but it was a much simpler time then in terms of the media certainly. And things have changed a great deal since then.
Denaye Barahona: Yes, absolutely. Do you have kids of your own?
Andrea Barbalich: I do. I have a 21 year old son.
Denaye Barahona: Okay, so I can imagine even since the time you became a parent, you've seen the news changed dramatically and the we consume it
Andrea Barbalich: Well, yes. I mean when I don't think, I mean when my son was born, there was no social media. He grew up in and he did not have access to a lot of electronics until he was three or four years old. And so he was, it was a different time than everyone did not have a cell phone. Everyone was not on their phones all the time. We didn't have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and it w it really was, even though it was not that long ago, it really was a different world. And so as he grew up, of course all of these things were invented and people began using them more. And I feel that it is a much different time for the parents of children who are younger right now than it was when he was younger. But I have been working in this field for a long time and have, you know, have been publishing content about children and families this this entire time. So I have seen, you know, how, how things have changed and you know, some is for the better and some is for the worst. I would. Yeah.
Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I think as a parent myself, it's hard to sift through the abundance of resources and the abundance of different news options out there. Even when I'm thinking about talking to my kids, my kids are four and six, so they're still pretty young, but they're curious. And I think about just in my, my lifetime, I'm 36 that when I was growing up, news was just as you described, you know, you got it with the morning newspaper, you got it in the evening. But now sometimes it feels like it's taking over our lives and it's hard to put a stop on it. It's hard to curate it. And that's what I worry about for my kids is being able to curate the news in a way that they can understand. And in a way it's not overwhelming to them.
Andrea Barbalich: It is very easy to get overwhelmed by it. Especially right now, you know, everyone's at home. So it, it is, people are, you know, glued to their devices all day long and, and in one way that's wonderful because we're able to stay in touch with each other even though we can't be together physically. But in another way it can be, you know, it can become stressful and anxiety producing, especially the longer this goes on and the more uncertain we are about how long it will last and what exactly is going to happen next. So it is difficult and it's, I think it's important to, especially for children, to help them navigate what is, you know, helpful and useful for them to read and listen to and, and what isn't.
Denaye Barahona: Yes. So tell me a little bit about launching this magazine. It's in its fourth issue now and that means you've mostly been launching this magazine since the first issue went out. It's mostly been during the crisis. Are you working from home or are you all still gathering as a team?
Andrea Barbalich: No, we are working from home 100% remotely. All the team is, um, in their homes. And we actually went to 100% remote one day before our first ship deadline. We had spent, you know, weeks preparing for the big day in the office when we would ship the issue and open a bottle of champagne and the situation where we could just see it, you know, the world was changing day by day by day as we led up to our first deadline. And originally we thought, well, we'll be able to continue going into the office until our deadline happens to be on a Tuesday. So we thought we'll continue going into the office through Tuesday and then we'll all start working remotely after that. At least we'll have one issue done together. And then it just became very clear being an office in New York city that it was irresponsible to continue going to work and riding public public transportation.
Andrea Barbalich: So our company made the decision to close the office. It was definitely the right decision and we all just began working remotely and it has worked. It is a very way to work, but we have made it work. We have excellent technology in place, we do a lot of Google Hangouts, we do a lot of phone calls with multiple people on speaker phone and you know, we stayed together as a team and we're really getting it done and it took some adjustment. But I, I'm really proud of everyone and how everyone has pulled together and it really has been, I think a real reflection of our absolute determination to get this magazine into the hands and homes of children. And when we felt that we always felt that this was going to be an important magazine that would make a difference. But then it became, wow, this, there's no more important time than to be bringing this magazine into the homes of America's families. And so there was that sense of purpose and mission that really kept us going. And we also had to change a lot of the plans we had for the magazine. We had stories planned and a cover planned that all of a sudden didn't make sense anymore. There are a lot of things that we were planning to have in our first and second and third issues that just were no longer viable. So we had to basically rip up our lineup and start over.
Denaye Barahona: Oh my goodness. It just sounds crazy and amazing all at the same time.
Andrea Barbalich: Yeah, it's definitely the most challenging and at the same time, the most gratifying thing I've ever done in my career.
Denaye Barahona: Oh I love that. So I, I crowdsourced a few questions from my audience cause I knew that they would have a lot of questions to ask you. So I have a few that were sent to me via Instagram, which I always appreciate hearing from some audience members. So going to get to those questions and I look forward to your insight. All right, so how do you engage kids in the news without scaring them?
Andrea Barbalich: Well, it's, that's, that's an extremely important distinction to make and something that we are focused on every minute of every day, especially right now when things are scary in the world and it's scary even for adults. So the important things I think are to tell children the truth in a way that is understandable to them and with language and photographs that are not scary or alarming and to really strike a tone in the way we, the way either we are speaking to children in the magazine or parents speaking to the children at home that reassures them that you are there for them. You will be honest with them. You will protect them and they will be safe. And that is what I think the most important thing that children need to hear right now is that they're loved and they're safe and that it's okay to understand what's going on in the world.
Andrea Barbalich: It's important to understand what's going on in the world and it can be discussed in a way that is, that is at once straightforward and direct, but while also being very calming and that if you do this in the, in the way that I'm describing it actually helps children feel more calm rather than more upset.
Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I agree with that. My husband grew up in a home where the news was on just pretty much all the time and he tends to want to have the news on a lot and I don't, I just, I feel like that filter, direct access to the news can be difficult for kids to take those bits and pieces and to interpret them. So, and I've actually heard this from several audience members to this idea that should we just leave the news playing all the time or should we turn it on more intentionally at certain times of the day? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Andrea Barbalich: I would advocate less television news rather than more because you simply don't know what's coming on next. And there are a lot of images right now that are being shown of, you know, people in masks and you know, even empty streets and things like that that can be, that can feel very upsetting in a way that I don't think parents, you know, want their children to feel. So I would say turn off the TV a good percentage of the time, unless you're really, especially TV news, there's a lot of, you just can't really control it, can't really control what the person is going to say, what the visual is going to be. And so I would guard against that.
Denaye Barahona: Okay. I agree with that. So my next question is how do you raise independent thinkers?
Andrea Barbalich: Well that is the, a number one skill that children need in the 21st century to succeed in life, to succeed in a career. And so it's very important to, one of the, one of the pillars in our magazine is balance. And we try very hard to focus on the facts and leave out the opinions so that children can form their own. And we have, for example, a big debate in every issue where we present both sides of a story evenly, both sides of an issue evenly and ask children to vote to say what they think, whether they agree or disagree with it. So that is one just one example of a way to encourage children to think for themselves, to decide where they come down on an issue, to have a chance to speak up and share their thoughts. And that is a way to develop that very important piece of critical thinking and everything that we report on them in the magazine, we are very careful to give both sides if it, if it is something that is controversial and that's something that I think parents can do at home as well.
Andrea Barbalich: You can talk about a topic and say, well what do you think? And you know, kids have an amazing ability to think things through and say what they think. We love the comments that we get when we do our, when we do our big debate every week. It's amazing the comments and the insight that they have, even though they're, you know, eight to 14 years old. And that is a very important time in a child's life where they are really figuring out who they are and what interests them and what they believe. And that is something that, you know, we try really hard to, to inspire in the magazine and I think parents can do that at home as well by just bringing up topics, whatever it may be, whatever has happened or you know, even if it's a topic in science or a topic about the environment or a new invention or whatever it is that you might be discussing to ask, just constantly be asking children, what do you think about that?
Andrea Barbalich: It's a really simple thing that really can make a big difference. Right? And I think this idea of raising independent thinkers sounds really great, but sometimes we get to a point where our kids start thinking independently and develop different beliefs or opinions than we have ourselves. And that can be tricky. Have you ever experienced that with your son? Well, it's interesting, I have to say I have and I think that that is perfectly normal, natural and 100% to be expected. Children need to rebel against their parents a little bit. And that's how they figure out who they are. And they don't need to be clones of us. They don't need to be, you know, they don't have to have all the same opinions and beliefs that we do. And certainly, um, my son, now he's 21, he has a lot of opinions about politics and all kinds of other subjects and it's an amazing experience to be able to talk it through with them and see where he comes down on certain things. And I think that the important thing is, is to share your opinions, share your ideas back and forth without, you know, criticizing and feeling threatened by the fact that your child may have a different opinion than you do.
Denaye Barahona: Right. Because that's, I mean, maybe not the goal of everyone, but I think most of us want to raise kids to be curious and to be seeking their own answers. But I do think that sometimes when those answers aren't exactly the ones that align with ours, it can be difficult for parents to process. But you're right, it's healthy. It's totally normal and healthy.
Andrea Barbalich: Yeah. And, and you know, curiosity is, is what children are all about. I mean, children are born curious. They, they cannot be stopped from being curious from the moment they're born and they're searching for, you know, where am I, who am I, what, where's my place in the world? And you know, they are going to disagree. They're going to disagree with us. And sometimes, um, you know, a child can, I've certainly have experienced this myself where, you know, I think some, sometimes time's just to prove that, you know, the child is not the parent. They will rebel and really will, um, you know, deliberately form another opinion just to test it out. And then sometimes you find out that down the line may come back to what they've been taught or what is the value within the family. And they needed to, you know, they needed to test it out. And then many times they, they come back, they've thought about it, they've tested it and then they, and then they come back and, um, they, they just had to go through that experience.
Denaye Barahona: Yeah, it makes me, makes me think of sports. And my husband is a Redskins fan and whenever there's a game on my son, my six year old will come up and say, Oh, who are the Redskins playing? And I'll say the jets and you'll say, that's who I'm cheering for. That test, that boundary that I have had that as well.
Andrea Barbalich: My son is a huge sports fan and I'm a college athlete and I went to, I attended Syracuse university and um, he roots for Syracuse in men's basketball, except when they play Yukon because that's his favorite team and I cannot get Syracuse when those two teams.
Denaye Barahona: So moving on to our next question. How do you help younger readers determine the credibility and reporting of what they find on the internet?
Andrea Barbalich: Well, that's a huge issue for everyone, right? As, as is being able to tell the difference between what is real and what is not. And we hope that when people, when children read our magazine, they will see what truthful, rigorous reporting is like simply from reading the quality of the information and the sources that we cite. And knowing and hearing from us that everything we publish is rigorously fact checked and rigorously reported. And that's where we can do our part. But also we will be covering in future issues of the magazine articles explaining how to tell the difference and how to know if you're being fooled online. Media literacy is a huge topic in schools now at all ages. And we want to do our part to help kids understand, you know, the difference between, you know, they're, you know, a news website and something that is an opinion and something that is just 100% false.
Andrea Barbalich: And so it, you know, there's, there's a difference between something that is an opinion and something that is totally made up. And that's something that we can work really hard on in the magazine and within our families to help children understand the difference. Yeah. And I think that you're right, that even adults don't always understand the difference. And I know that when I, in the first couple of years of my PhD program, I felt like I was finally able to become a really critical consumer of the media because I was able to understand how to read research studies and how to understand how studies made their way into the news and which, and how they could be interpreted in many different ways. And I remember thinking to myself that I, you know, it was one of those things where you don't know what you don't know.
Andrea Barbalich: And for so long I was reading things without ever really thinking too critically on them. So I think it's, it's a journey, a lifelong journey for all of us. Yes. And, and you know, with the proliferation of so many websites that are really just you, you don't know the origin of them and you can really go down the rabbit hole and you know, very quickly find yourself on a website that you know is not where you intended to be. And I think it's, it's, it's really important to make that a, a part of a child's education both in school and at home.
Denaye Barahona: Yeah, absolutely. And I, I'm glad to hear that schools are covering this extensively and that you all will be covering it as well.
Andrea Barbalich: Yeah, I think that there are, there are a lot of different, there are many different um, education programs that teach this and we've, we found our market research before we launched the magazine that this was a very important topic to parents and they want to make sure that their kids are getting factual information and not opinions and that they don't want their children to be persuaded by the media.
Andrea Barbalich: They want what their children are reading to be unbiased and factual. And you know, they, they care very much about that and, and really want to make sure that their children understand the difference between the different types of information.
Denaye Barahona: Have you gotten any feedback adults who are enjoying the magazine too?
Andrea Barbalich: We absolutely have. We have actually been inundated with feedback from children, parents, teachers and grandparents who are really loving the magazine. And it's, it's so wonderful to hear kids are writing into us constantly and telling us what they think of it. They're sending us their drawings and their pictures and telling us what they're doing in their lives and their parents are writing to thank us for coming out at this crucial time when they are looking for additional sources of reading and education for their kids. We've heard from parents who are actually reading the magazine themselves and then making up lesson plans based on the articles in different areas such as science and math and social studies.
Andrea Barbalich: And they're actually using it as a learning tool as so many parents right now are being expected to essentially homeschool their children. Um, we've heard from teachers who are, who are saying thank you and using it in their lesson plans. And we have also heard from grandparents who are saying they are looking forward to using it as a conversation starter with their grandchildren.
Denaye Barahona: So I think that's great. It's hard to simplify these issues a lot of times. So even if it's something that we do as adults understand on a higher level, reading a children's version can help us to streamline the facts for them.
Andrea Barbalich: Yes, absolutely. And you know, a lot of times grandparents aren't really sure what their grandchildren are interested in. They might not know what movies they like or what music they like or what, you know, what activities interests them, what books they're reading.
Andrea Barbalich: And I think they're hoping that the week junior can help be a bridge and help them understand what's going on in the world of a, of a 10 or 12 or eight or 14 year old today. And you are so right about the need to explain things to children very clearly. And sometimes that can be, that can be difficult for anyone. And we, we've heard from a lot of people who say, you know, I need to read the week junior to figure out what's going on. And, and, and, and I, I, that thrills me because that to me means that parents and children will be reading this magazine a lot, you know, together. And it will, it will inspire some family conversations. And you know, when, when, when we thought about this, about launching the magazine, one of the things we thought about is that we want it to be a way for parents and children to have conversations in the car at the dinner table, at the breakfast table and so on. And one of the things we thought was that, you know, parents and children don't have enough of this time because families are so busy and now it's actually the opposite where, you know, all activities basically have stopped. So, so there is more time. And so I, I, this makes me really feel very hopeful that this is what this magazine will be able to do in, in, uh, America's homes.
Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I love the idea of grandparents. I'm picturing grandparents gifting a subscription to the grand kids and then one to themselves as well, especially if they're out of state and being able to use that as a conversational piece in phone calls and FaceTime chats and that kind of thing. Because sometimes it's hard to make conversation with kids, you know, how many times can you ask them, well, what did you do today?
Andrea Barbalich: How's school? Yeah, well, you know, we did a story in our second issue about how to talk to grandparents. And so the reason we did the story is that we know that many children are unable to visit their grandparents right now because of the risk of the Corona virus being higher among older people. And so we wanted to help keep that connection going. So we did a piece on how to talk to your grandparents about what they were like, what their lives were like when they were your age. And we gave tips for questions to ask and how, you know, ways to do it, whether it's by a video call or cell phone or whatever way you can to stay connected. Right now, here are some questions you can ask. And I, I really hope that that is happening around the country right now because grandparents would love nothing more than to talk to their grandchildren, to be asked that question and talk to their grandparents about what their lives were like.
Andrea Barbalich: And I think that that can really bridge the generation gap because it's sometimes children probably don't think about the fact that their grandparents were once 10 years old. What that they, they had friends and they had adventures and they got in trouble and you know, they did fun things and they did, they won awards and they did great things in their lives that they, you know, was a long time ago. And it can, I think, help a child feel reassured to know that the people in the generations above them at very similar things going on in their lives when they were their age. And I, it just to your point about the long distance subscriptions, we have actually heard from a few people who have said that, that, you know, I got one for my grandchildren. I got one for me too. So we can talk about it. So I, I just love that. Yeah.
Denaye Barahona: So my last question for you, which I is one that I'm really interested in, what suggestions do you have for parents to help their kids record their experience living through this historic time?
Andrea Barbalich: Well, I, that is an excellent question and I think it is something that's really important to do for, for many reasons, including helping children feel that they can express themselves and share their feelings about what's happening right now. That's one of the best things that you know, we can do as adults is to make children feel that it's okay to say what they think and how they feel and that their feelings are valid and that we understand and we'll be there to listen to whatever it is they have to say. And that can really help provide calm during a difficult time. And so some of the, some of the suggestions actually that we've had in the magazine are that, you know, children can keep a journal, children can make videos. We are seeing a lot of collaborative videos being made right now by children who are getting extremely creative with technology and recording themselves in their homes and then putting the video together for a record.
Andrea Barbalich: So I think that anything we can do to encourage children to write it down, talk about it, will be very helpful for them and they will want to look back on it one day. And this is an event that they will remember very vividly for the rest of their lives. So the more they can, you know, make a video, write it down, share photos, uh, any, make a scrapbook, make a collage, um, anything. We had a piece in our issue that just shipped this week on making kindness rocks and that, you know, there are just so many ways that children can express themselves. And I think anything any of us can do to encourage that type of creativity and sharing is very worthwhile.
Denaye Barahona: Thank you so much Andrea. It's been really good talking with you and I love all these suggestions and I do think that my audience is really going to love The Week Junior and I'm excited to get my hands on some copies too so I can check it out. Thank you so much. Great. Well thank you. I appreciate your time. Yes, I really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you very much. Thanks for tuning into today's episode and if you have questions or comments, you can leave those in the show notes, simple families.com forward slash episode 213 or feel free to screenshot this and send me your questions and comments on Instagram. Thanks for tuning into simple families today. I appreciate you being a part of the community. If you want to stay in touch with what's going on on the podcast, on the blog in the community, go to simple families.com and leave your email address. The email list is the best way. If you're enjoying the podcast, I encourage you to hit subscribe and leave a rating or review when you get a chance that helps the show to reach more people. I appreciate you and thank you for tuning in. Have a good one.