When you have children, life is full of new beginnings and new situations. It’s an exciting time, and you’ll make new discoveries with how to handle messes and mistakes better than ever. Because of this, most of the time everyone in your family will be happy apart from a few daily hiccups. However, sometimes you can’t account for sudden disasters.
Explaining these things to your children can be even harder. A lot of focus can go on the actual issue meaning that the feelings of your little ones can sometimes go unnoticed. Parents never mean for this to happen. Unfortunately it can be a side effect of keeping a healthy family structure.
I’ve written before about keeping an open dialogue with your kids around awkward situations, but I felt it needed a revisit. Here are a few tips to helping shift back some of the focus onto your children in the hard times.
Explaining Family Illnesses
It’s hard to comfort your child through a difficult period that even you don’t know how to handle. But you can prepare yourself for talks. Take time to think of open answers to questions during quiet moments. This is usually after the kids are in bed or at school when you have the ability to focus on such a difficult task.
No one will talk to your children as well you will. When something this big grips your family, it’s best if it comes from you as their parent. If you have a partner, present a united front and be there to support each other when it comes to it.
Use the daylight to talk to your children. Don’t send them to bed with life changing revelations. Let your kids know you’re doing everything you can, and that they are too.
Don’t be afraid if anyone begins to cry over the subject matter. Tears should be an acceptable part of such a discussion to help show your children it’s okay to let anything they’re feeling out.
Advice pages on sites such as Marie Curie can be a guardian angel during times like these. They have specialist advice that’ll keep your explanations on the right track.
Introducing Them To Divorce
This is always a last option. But sometimes it’s necessary. It’s inevitable that you’ll need to tell your children as it’s such an obvious change. No matter their age it’ll usually create a sense of frustration for them.
Parents don’t ever want their kids to feel alone or unsafe. Explaining at a level they can understand instead of using big grown up talk is essential. The timing is especially important, as you don’t want to introduce a change in your child’s life that is unnecessary. Only share the news when you know a separation is definite. This will stop an anxiety cycle of worried thoughts and unusual behaviours for your child. Allow them to take practical steps towards the problem.
Starting the actual process can impact your child in many way. Mostly, what to expect from this new life. Lawyers that specialise in family situations such as Bannister Preston can make this kind of talk a lot smoother, and the process less disruptive. Even if you’re already separated, try and tell your children together about the divorce. Stories won’t differ and details won’t leave your child confused. This could be a start of trust issues after all. Let your child know that being around both parents will continue to be a safe space. Include the fact that they’re allowed to visit and stay with either one of you.
If that isn’t possible, show them how dependable you are. Remind them they’re the most important thing in your life. You can put in extra effort to be the support network they need. You can place appropriate role models in your child’s way to help cement this.
When your kids are older, the dynamic changes slightly. Teenagers are often going through a vulnerable period. You can be more honest about the grit of life towards them. Getting frustrated yourself can be avoided when talking to them.
Your children’s feelings, and the divorce, aren’t their fault. They still need guidance from you, so knowing what you’re doing and what you’re saying is still super important for their development. Let them know they’re loved!
Talking About A Death In The Family
Whilst it’s a common trope in movies and television, explaining death as sleeping can confuse and may even upset your child. They go to sleep! They might start to wonder ‘What if going to sleep hurts me?’ Leave sleep as that perfectly safe state for life and properly explain what you mean.
As a parent, it’s upsetting to watch your child go through anything. But it’s necessary to let your child have the time to grieve on their own terms. Help them explore these feelings in a safe way by reminding them you’re there for them to talk to. Remind them that both you and them are safe, and that death doesn’t happen for a really long time.
Even after the initial talk, events such as funerals can continue to help your child in understanding the world and their place in it.
Let them choose if they want a part in the funeral. You don’t want them to be affected negatively by your attempts to protect them, which as a parent is all we want to do. Including them in all steps reminds them they’re loved and part of the family still.
Despite this, having your children take on more responsibility can be harmful for their development. As a parent, you’re at the helm of the family. Taking on extra responsibilities can be tiring and often you might just want to shoulder off the burden. This can be directed towards your support network amongst your friends and adult members of your family. It’s good to let your kids be kids. Stay yourself and be the trusted person they continue to love and look up to.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.