Monday, April 29, 2013

Talking to Kids about the Unthinkable

Just recently, parents around the world were in a shared struggle: How do I talk to my child about a bombing?

Sadly, in the wake of several recent news events, parents are having too many opportunities to practice these kinds of conversations.                                        

Still, it can be a challenge to find the right words or know how to respond. Here are some tips to guide you:

1.     Remember, if everyone is talking about it, your kids are for sure hearing about it.  It’s natural to want to protect kids from bad news but not telling them is often not the answer.

  • They’ll hear whispers. They’ll see sad and worried expressions around them.
  • If someone doesn’t say what the upset is, they will create their own story about it.
  • That story is often worse and more personal to them than the actual news event.
  • They’ll imagine you dying or divorcing before they think of something bad happening to people they don’t know.

2.     Tell kids in simple, direct terms what happened. Use short sentences. Be direct about the facts and don’t use too many adjectives.

You’re overwhelmed with
how awful the event is but the kids
don’t need to know that level of detail.

3.     Answer questions directly and only answer the question asked.

4.     Reassure kids of their safety. Younger kids will benefit from seeing safety measures in place (locked doors, closed garages, shut windows…) Older kids will benefit from safety reminders of what to keep in mind during times like this.

5.     If appropriate to your child, ask them how they might like to help. After the bombing, adults rushed to give blood. They donated money.  They went for a run, themselves.  

We feel soothed by
doing something instead of just watching.
Kids are the same way. 
Ask them if they’d like to do something.
Don’t be worried or attach a story
of your own if they say no. 

6.     Get back to normal.  If your TV isn’t usually on 24/7, turn it off during times of crisis (if it is on that much, stay tuned, I’m bound to have a blog about that at some point down the line!).

Maintain the family schedule and routine
as much as the situation allows. 
Kids are reassured by routine.
Adults are, too.

These are the talks no one wants to have. If you have to have one and are stuck finding the words, see my website for more information or contact me.  I’m happy to help you find the words for your speechless moments.

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