Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Give a Kid Bad News

This is never easy. From "Oh, no the goldfish is dead" to "Guess what? We're moving!" Children perceive things differently than adults. Depending upon the age of the child, it may not be such a big deal at all. The trick is, let your child decide if it truly is awful or if it is just a way to get a new pet. Moving can be traumatic, if the child already has their own social network in place. Telling a Senior in High School about a move is decidedly harder than telling a 4 year old. But it can be done with grace and care. You needn't make a big thing of preparing the child for the news. Sometimes telling a child you have something to tell them that may make them sad, sets them up to already be anxious about the news. Just tell them the news. Wait for them to respond. They may ask questions. They may start to cry. They may get angry. Whatever they do, it is our job as the adult to let them know it is OK to feel. It is okay to cry, be angry, be afraid or whatever they are. Help them to accept the news over a period of time, not immediately. No one can do that, not even adults. Children rarely feel they have control over their lives so giving them control over how they accept news is a great start to help them feel in control. Feeling in control is the best way to come to acceptance. Talk. Listen. Let them know it is OK if they want to talk about this again later. But don't keep asking them if they want to talk. They will see this as a sign that you do. Kids are very good about trying to keep their adults from hurting. Don't let your child deny their own feelings because they are trying to take care of yours. Sometimes life hurts. Deep down heart hurts. Use words they know. Let them draw pictures, or write poems. If it is a move that is coming, make a story book for the little ones of how they will pack all their favorite toys and send them in a big truck so they will be there when they arrive. If possible let them see where they will be going. And let them say good by to the old house. Kids attach to places really well. If your child is older, then talking is the best way to help. If there has been a death and you want to know if your child should go to the funeral, ask the child if they want to say goodbye. Kids need closure too. Transitions are hard for children. It is the adults job to help them through. Let me know how you have handled changes in your children's lives.

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