Advice: Sharing bad news with children should not be taken lightly

BY MARIA LUISA SALCINES

Children sometimes need help navigating through the emotions they experience after hearing bad news.

It is important children understand it is OK to feel sad and cry. Sometimes when they see their parents cry, it scares them.

Be as honest as you can and take into account your child’s age when delivering bed news. Choose a quiet place where he or she feels safe.

You might want to have their favorite blanky or stuffed animal close by. As uncomfortable as it may be, do not rush through the conversation. Put your arms around your child and give him or her time to assimilate the news.

Listen to your child and reflect on what he or she says so that they know they’ve has been heard.

Let your child guide the conversation. It might also take weeks for your child time to comprehend the news.

Some of the questions your child may ask might not have anything to do with the topic. But be sure to let them know they can come to you if they have any questions.

Don’t insist there will be plenty of time to clarify things later. Stay with your child until he or she is ready to move on.

Keep in mind that children grieve differently then adults. Your child may want to go play right after you shared the bad news. Your child laughing or having fun is not disrespectful — children need a break from sadness.

Often times, children will express themselves through their behavior. The lack of control can overwhelm kids. So, it is important to keep children on a schedule and allow them to do the things they enjoy. It will likely make them feel safe during a difficult time.

You may also notice your child crying more often, having tantrums, having trouble sleeping or acting up in school. Be sure to let your caregiver or your child’s teacher know what your child is going through.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with sad situations. Overcoming loss and dealing with bad news is a process, making it more important for adults to stay calm and patient to help their kids deal with a difficult time.

Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer and certified parent educator with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom.

Follow her on Twitter @PowerOfFamily and on Instagram @mlsalcines. You can also contact her through her blog FamilyLifeandFindingHappy.com.