It’s All About The Right Approach During Tough Family Times

No matter how old our children are, we all face the problem of how to tackle different situations appropriately.

And sometimes, we have to deliver difficult news to our children – the death of a pet, a sudden move to a different state, or a serious illness in the family can be hard to explain.

No matter the subject matter, there are ways you can help kids of any age by keeping a few things in mind when you need to have a tough conversation.

We never want to see our children upset, scared, or confused.  But when something serious impacts the family, kids need to understand what is going on.

It’s all about how we approach difficult conversations in an age-appropriate manner.  

Very young children are obviously going to require a different approach than a teenager, but each situation is equally difficult.

Giving someone bad news or discussing a difficult topic is always emotional, both for the messenger and the recipient.

So, as the old saying goes, “Timing is everything.”

This is especially important for young children.  If you have something serious to discuss with a young child, it is always best to do so when they are calm and rested.

Tough conversations are not likely to go well when a child is first waking up in the morning or from a nap.  Likewise, right before bedtime is not the time to give a child upsetting news.

For any age, it is important to get down on the child’s level, make eye contact, and use a comforting tone of voice.  And little ones always need a loving touch from Mom and Dad when something upsetting is going on.

It’s also important for parents to compose themselves before delivering bad news or bringing up something serious.  Take the time to digest the information yourself before sitting down for a conversation.

It may even help to “rehearse” ahead of time with your spouse or a good friend and get their feedback on your approach.

Small children, especially, will become upset almost immediately if they see Mom or Dad emotional.  Even if it may feel like a façade, it’s important that parents are not falling apart during that first conversation.

Having said that, however, don’t feel like your child can’t see you sad or vulnerable.  It is important to share your emotions about a tough situation with your child, as long as they see that they can still count on your support and strength to get through it.

Something like, “I see you’re sad.  Mommy is sad too,” helps a child to know they are not alone in their feelings.

Once you’ve had that tough conversation, make sure there is time to talk through the next steps.  

Ask your child questions about how they feel and what they are thinking – and allow them to ask questions of you.  

And when they do tell you how they feel, make sure to validate whatever emotions they are expressing.  Everyone handles stress differently.  There is no right or wrong reaction when processing something traumatic.

Always stress that you are there for them at all times if they are scared or confused.  

We can sometimes fall into the trap of “dropping it” when we’ve gotten through something hard – like a tough conversation with the kids.

You may feel relief that it is “over,” but kids of all ages will take time to process what you have talked about and will need you to be open, honest, and present for a long while after.

And when something scary happens when a child is young, remember that it is common for them to revert to behaviors or habits they may have abandoned. 

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Bed wetting, tantrums, wanting to sleep with Mom or Dad, or other indicators of anxiety are normal for a time when a child experiences something traumatic. (Just be sure to consult a medical expert if you have concerns.)

But with plenty of love, support, and follow-up conversations, they will see that they are still safe with you by their side.

It’s never easy to deliver bad news to our kids or have serious conversations about a problem that is going on.  

Sometimes, it’s even harder on us as parents to have to make that first approach than it is for the kids to hear our news.

Make sure to take time for yourselves as parents if something tough is going on.  Talk to friends and family, or even invite them to come stay a while for support and as a distraction.  

Everyone needs support during the hard times, but your child will feel much more secure when you have someone to lean on as well!

Have you ever had to deliver very difficult news, like the death of a family member, to your child?  What are some of your tips for making it easier?  Leave us your thoughts.



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