Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Five Things to Remember When Communicating To Your Child During a Crisis

It is commonly understood that the most important thing a parent can offer a child is a sense of security and stability. Parents must struggle daily to ensure that these are always a priority in their daily parenting adventure.  Sometimes our world makes that difficult. A couple of months ago we all grieved a mass school shooting and today (4/15/2013) will be remembered as the day the Boston Marathon was bombed.

When national tragedies and instant 24-7 media are combined, it can rob children of their sense of security and stability. It is almost impossible for parents shield the world from their children when these types of events happen. So parents need to have a plan about how to talk to their children while protecting the security and stability that could easily be robbed. Here are some ideas about how to handle a crisis with your children. These are in no way original thoughts with me but they are easily applicable despite the crisis. 

1.    Find out what they know about the event
This should be common sense but it’s so important that it bears saying.  A simple question like, “What have you heard about…” or, “What are your friends saying about…” As parents, we need to shield our children from things that they are not ready to comprehend and we need to encourage them that it’s okay to ask questions.

2.    Reassure their sense of safety and security
Hug your child. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them you are going to protect them. Cook them a special meal or order a pizza. Give them an opportunity to enjoy things that communicate how much you as a parent love them.

3.    Listen to what your child is saying and not saying
Children love to talk and when your child is talking, listen past the words and pay attention to the emotion behind their words. Sometimes they don’t know how to say what they want to say and parents need to listen with more than their ears but with their heart

4.    Share how the crisis makes you feel
Parents are always teaching their kids. One of the most important things we can communicate is how to deal with difficult situations. Keep your communication age appropriate but don’t diminish the importance of teaching your kids how to go through difficult times. Spend time praying for those who were affected and for the person who caused the tragedy

5.    Don’t feel like you need to explain why things happen
We live in a fallen world. Bad things are always happening and if my understanding of scripture is correct, things are not going to get much better. When something bad happens, when tragedies strike, your presence and love is more important than knowledge about why things happen.

A final thought is that we need to develop a sense of compassion in our children for people who are going through difficult circumstance. As you are talking with your children, give them an opportunity to give back to those who have been affected. Whether you write letters, send cards, draw pictures, or organize some type of bigger demonstration, give them a chance to show love to someone else in a way that is relevant to them.

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