Every family goes through tough times. It’s how you deal with them that counts. Parents, if you are feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about difficult times.
How to talk about difficult times
When navigating difficult times in a family, it can be hard to know what to say to children. Should we tell them we are having problems? How much should we disclose? Should we pretend that everything is OK?
Our job as a parent is to provide a safe place for our children. There is no safer place than trust.
If your children have noticed stress in the family, it should be disclosed and discussed directly with them.
Prepare yourself before you talk to your child
Discuss with your partner and agree on the message you will be putting across before talking to your kids. What do we want to say? How can we best do this? Who should speak when and about what?
Talk to them in a way that they will understand
Children pick up on far more than we give them credit for. They can often feel things before we do, and so they also need reassurance that you are together, calm and safe.
Acknowledge their fears or worries, validate them. For example, if your child asks if the family is breaking up, don’t be dismissive. If that is what they are worried about, then just because you say no doesn’t mean that they will believe you.
Let them know that it’s OK to feel sad or scared
Validate their feelings by saying things like “I can see how upset you are”, “I know you feel angry/ sad/ confused by this.”
Also, be honest with them if there are practical changes.
“We are having to cut down on our outgoings, so your birthday party this year will be at home instead of the restaurant”.
You don’t need to go into lots of detail, but honest information can help children deal with what is happening.
Answer any questions they may have honestly and completely
Don’t hide the truth. It’s not advisable to lie to children even if you think it will help them. Children can usually tell when things aren’t right or honest.
If they discover that you have been dishonest, they will feel betrayed.
Help them find ways to cope with their feelings
We want our children to be honest with us, but it is equally important that they know they can talk to us about their feelings.
Give them permission to express themselves by saying, “It’s OK for you to feel angry, I’m here”. Support them in finding ways of dealing with their feelings through exercise, art, mindfulness, and conversation.
We often feel like we are not good parents if our kids feel pain or disappointment. However, our job is broader than that. Our job is to provide them with a safe place to FEEL the feeling and know it is OK. It is to let them know they can come to you if they need. It shows them they are resourceful and will find their way through difficult times.
Create a resilience plan
You may not know how you will get through the tough times, but it is important to plan how you will help your children manage their feelings. Doing this will help all of you stay connected, strengthen your resilience and support each other throughout.
No one can predict the future, but by developing a resilience plan, you can be prepared for whatever life throws your way. Download our free Resilience Plan printable to start creating your resilience plan today. With a bit of effort, you can overcome any obstacle and come out stronger on the other side.