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 face financial ruin. The potential list of difficulties is endless. Parents worry about the impact of these difficult situations on their children. Some fret and wonder, “To tell or not to tell?” and “If we do tell our children, how should we go about it?”
Most kids can handle most 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, your children will be uncomfortable. If you are calm, your child is more likely to respond in a calm manner. If you are hysterical, your child is more likely to respond with a dramatic emotional response. So deal with your feelings first then present the difficulty to your child in an honest way.
TRUST yourself and your child’s abilities:
T Truth: Tell the truth as simply as possible. You don’t need to sugar-coat a bad situation; it doesn’t help. Omit frightening or graphic details; kid’s imaginations can be vivid so use caution here.
R Resilience: Teach your child about coping and help her become resilient. Give your child confidence that she can deal with the situation. Reassure her 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 your child’s uncertainties and need to work through the issue.
S Symbolic Item or Gesture: Offer your child a simple symbol or a ritual to help her anchor her feelings. Give her a polished stone or trinket to carry in a pocket as a reminder of your love or the strength of your bond. Or try a candle-lighting ritual to give your child something to “do” to help channel her energy. Dedicate the candle and the lighting gesture to the person in question or to the issue to be resolved. Repeat the ritual daily if your child finds comfort in the gesture.
T Together: Assure your child that you will tackle the issue together. Teach your daughter that 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; rely on your strong family ties in tough times.
And as always, if your child struggles more than you think he should, seek professional help.