Talking With Kids About Tragedy

These days it seems like every time we turn around there is another tragedy.  Something that seems senseless.  Something that we, even as adults, have a hard time comprehending or understanding ourselves. 

When these events occur, it’s important to take some time to talk to our children about what’s happening.  Why?  Because they are going to hear about it.  And your best explanation of a difficult situation is better than no explanation at all.  Here are five tips to help get your conversation started:

Consider their developmental level.  Young children don’t necessarily need to know about every tragedy.  They are happy and carefree and we can and should keep them that way as long as possible.  Preschoolers up to kindergarteners (and even first graders) can be shielded from hearing about most situations.  But school aged children are VERY likely to hear about tragedies from their peers, teachers, or the media so as a parent it’s important to talk to your kids yourself.  When you do talk to your children, talk to them using vocabulary that they understand and using examples that are appropriate to their developmental level.

Be honest.  My thinking has always been that I would rather my children hear about something difficult from me first than on the playground from one of their friends.  If armed with accurate information from their parents, children are better able to process truth (and fiction) presented by their peers.  I also want my children to know that I will not lie to them, even when the topic is scary.  Stay calm when you’re talking with your kids and using your own words say something like: “A sad thing happened that I wanted to talk with you about.  There was an explosion in Boston while people were running in a race, the Boston Marathon.  A bomb caused the explosion.  Some people were injured and sadly some people died.  There were also a lot of people there who were not hurt and who helped those who did get injured.  I don’t know why this happened or who put the bomb there but the police are investigating it and over time we will know more.  I wanted to tell you about it so that you would know what was going on and could ask me any questions that you have.  I may not have the answers,but it’s always important to me to be honest with you even about difficult things.”  [Read more...]

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You Want Me To Do What?!?!

Last summer, the director of our local Child Advocacy Center told me she thought I looked like I was a great dancer.  She said, “You’re so tall, you must be amazing on the dance floor.”  WHAT?!?!  We were having a professional conversation at the time in her office, mind you, and somehow my dancing skills were being complimented.  If she had ever seen me dance (or walk around for that matter) she would have known that I had no skills in that area whatsoever.  None.

Little did I know but she was setting me up for a big invitation.  She wanted ME to be a dancing ‘star’ in the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama’s annual fundraiser, Dancing Stars of East Alabama.  Dancing Stars of East Alabama is an annual dance competition in Auburn between 10 couples (one pro and one star).  Even though I’m a child psychologist and NOT a dancer, there was no way I could say no to doing my part to raise money for this organization and the children that they serve.

You see, when I was a child there was no specific place that victims of child sexual abuse and their families could go to receive the support and the services that they so desperately needed.  Fast forward to today and Child Advocacy Centers across our country unite the police, courts, physicians, therapists, and child protective services together as a team; a multi-disciplinary team that helps children and their families cope with the devastating realities of child sexual abuse.

Last year in my community, 329 children came to the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama to tell their story of abuse and receive free therapy services.  Unfortunately that number is only the tip of the iceberg.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.  Many of them will wait years to disclose that they were abused and some will never tell their story.  I knew I had to help, which meant I was going to have to dance! [Read more...]

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Social Media Etiquette For Parents

Instagram.  Pinterest.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Snapchat.  These days it seems that as soon as you learn the ins and outs of one social media site another one gets introduced as the latest and greatest way for your teens to stay connected with their friends.  As overwhelming as it seems, parents of teenagers need to be involved in social media.  Just as we stay up to speed on our kids grades, friends, curfews, and driving habits, our teens need our supervision online too.  But to be an effective parent online, it’s important to behave in a way that won’t send your teen running off to set up a fake account that you don’t even know exists!  Try these teen approved tips for staying active with your kids on social media:

Be a stalker.  Not too long ago, my teenage daughter asked her dad if he was stalking her on Instagram.  Truth be told, he probably was.  But in this day and age, that’s not stalking, that’s called parenting!  In our house, if our kids have a social media account, then both parents are going to follow and friend them.  And it’s not so we can interact with them there.  We can (and should) be doing that at home.  Instead, it’s to help monitor their safety and teach them proper online social skills.  To avoid any misunderstandings, let them know your purpose up front.

Don’t comment on their wall, status updates, or pictures unless they ask you to.  Just because you’re their friend or follower, don’t think that you need to comment on everything (or anything) that they do!  Instead, be a quiet passive observer.  I’ll admit this is sounding pretty stalker-ish, but the goal is to be aware of what your kids are doing on social media sites without smothering them or drawing attention to your presence.  If they ask you to be more involved, by all means go ahead.  But otherwise just try to blend in with all of their other followers. [Read more...]

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