It is only natural to want to shelter kids from everything bad in the world. Unfortunately we can’t predict all of life curveballs and some pains are unavoidable. Like a school friend’s death. Or a divorce. Or a mother who passes away suddenly at 40.
These events are tough and confusing enough for adults, let alone children. Whether you are a sympathetic teacher or a parent, here are some tips for helping kids cope with tough times.
Create a gentle atmosphere to reveal the news
If your child does not yet know the terrible news, you want to be able to present it in an atmosphere that isn’t traumatising. While your child’s favourite restaurant may comfort them, having terrible news revealed while surrounded by strangers is likely going to leave a bigger scar than being told in private.
Tell your kids in an area where they feel safe. If you are a teacher and the news affects the entire class, it isn’t reasonable to take every child aside to tell them in private. Instead make the classroom feel gentle. Line the floor with pillows and have tissues ready.
If you are at home, turn off the TV and tell your child in a comfortable area such as the lounge.
Keep the explanation short
Don’t overwhelm your child with the details. If it is a death, kids shouldn’t know enough detail to be able to picture the death in their heads. They don’t need to know how graphic the scene is – they just need to know what happened. If it is a divorce, they don’t need to know what mommy or daddy did wrong.
Alleviate any possible fears by explaining that whatever the tough time was the child will be safe and happy. Explain that car accidents aren’t common and that mom drives slowly. Explain that even though the divorce may be tough, mum and dad still love the child very much.
Don’t be afraid of feelings
Although it is your instinct to wipe away tears and shush anger, allow kids to embrace their emotions. Teach them that it is okay to feel what they feel and that you are a safe person for them to show their feelings to.