Parents want to protect their children – it’s normal and natural. The day inevitably arises, though, when a difficult and uncomfortable issue presents itself. It might be a death, divorce, or a grave diagnosis. These days families face job loss and some even face financial ruin; the potential list of difficulties is endless. Parents worry about the impact this will have on their children and consequently wonder, “To tell or not to tell?” and “If we do tell our children, how should we go about it?”
Most kids can handle a variety of difficult issues. The most important thing to know is that your kids will take their cues from you. They will respond, most often, very similarly to how you behave as you break the news to them. If you are uncomfortable, they will be uncomfortable. If you are calm, your child is more likely to respond calmly. If you are hysterical, your child is more likely to respond dramatically. So deal with your feelings first before presenting the situation to your child honestly.
TRUST yourself and your child’s abilities:
T Truth: Tell the truth as simply as possible. You don’t need to sugarcoat a bad situation; it doesn’t help. Omit frightening or graphic details; kids’ imaginations can be vivid so use caution.
R Resilience: Teach your child about coping and help him become resilient. Give your child confidence that he can deal with the situation. Reassure him that you will help. People rebound and learn how to deal with all sorts of difficult situations every day.
U Understanding: Help your child understand as much as she wants to know. Answer questions; be open to her uncertainties and need to work through the issue.
S Symbolic Item or Gesture: Offer your child a simple symbol or a ritual to help them anchor their feelings. Give your daughter a polished stone or trinket to carry in her pocket as a reminder of your love or the strength of your bond. Or try a candle-lighting ritual to give your son something to “do” to help channel his energy. Dedicate the candle and the lighting gesture to the person in question or to the issue to be resolved. Repeat daily if your son finds comfort in the ritual.
T Together: Assure your child that you will tackle the issue together. Managing difficult situations is a normal part of life and the best approach is to deal with it together through listening, sharing feelings, and working for resolution.
The hard times will come; it happens to all families. Build a strong family in good times and rely on your strong family ties in tough times.
By Amy Sluss, RN. Amy is a family-life specialist, an author and an acclaimed mother-daughter speaker from Pleasanton, CA. Visit her website www.fab2bfem.com