I had planned to write about another subject but, I just heard very sad news that my son’s good friend lost her father unexpectedly. As a parent, it’s hard to share that kind of news with your child. You never want them to feel sad but, it is a part of life. They say that children are very resilient and I believe that being exposed, little by little, to the harsh realities of the world, are opportunities for them to learn how to adapt.
Divorce, moving and loss of a job are other challenging events for families. Sheltering our kids from these realities doesn’t really help them in the long term. They will be looking to us to determine how they should react to the news. If we are a too stoic and show no emotion, they may not feel safe to share what they’re feeling. If, however, we are a basket case, it may scare them to see their parent that unsettled. Their concern will turn to you and they will be diverted from the event at hand. In the case of a tragedy, you will do the best you can. When you’re able to compose yourself enough to calmly share the news, even if you are crying, it’s a chance for your child to see you express your emotions. Knowing that their rock is still there for them, they’ll feel safe enough to reveal their own feelings.
We all hope that we can shelter our kids from the big, bad world for as long as possible. When we’re confronted with difficult situations, we are forced to let our kids peek at some of the “not-so-pretty” elements of life. These, and how we handle them, will be the moments that will shape their young lives.
Allowing children to show their guilt, show their grief, show their anger, takes the sting out of the situation.
– Martha Beck
Here are a few ideas to help you “break the news”-
- Keep the information age appropriate. Too many details can be overwhelming for young children. Start with less and then be open to their questions. Don’t be surprised if you tell a young child something earth shattering and then they run off to play. They’ll process it in their own way.
- If older children are upset or push you away, simply let them know that you are there for them. Stay outside their door and tell them that you’re just going to be here when they need you. Tell them that they can ask questions when they’re ready and be willing to answer honestly (again keeping their age in mind).
Trust that your child is RESILIENT! Let them know that you believe in them and that they are going to be ok. As long as they know that someone has their back, they’ll find their inner strength.