Ways to Support Your Children through Difficult News
By: Hannah Dearth
Social media is common among more children, of all ages, than ever before. This means information overload. Even if we do our best to model and safeguard appropriate social media and internet usage, our children still will likely have conversations with peers, or even overhear conversations between adults about difficult situations going on in our world. It is important, vital even, to make sure that we are proactive as parents and guardians in having those difficult and often uncomfortable conversations with our children. Here are a few steps to help you to begin this process.
Pray. Center yourself, and pray for wisdom and strength before meeting to talk with your child.
Show your emotion, but also remain regulated. Our children feel more comfortable feeling their emotions when we can show them ourselves that this is okay. However, we have to model regulation in order to also help them to learn to regulate and feel safe.
Ask questions. How did they hear this information? What did they think about it? How did it make them feel? What are they going to do with this? This helps set a pattern of critical thinking and helps them to be able to develop their own thoughts and feelings with you, their safe trusted adult, rather than possibly increasing unsafe influence of others, and validates that their voice matters, creating skills for their own future and ability to walk through tough news on their own.
Validate resources, and/or imagine other perspectives. How do we know that this is fact or opinion? How would others be impacted by this? Etc. With social media, anyone can create a post or “article”. How can we sort out what is truth, and how we feel about it? How can we think about how this could impact others with different experiences that us?
Brainstorm ideas of ways we can then respond to this information. Now that we have thought it through and sourced it’s validity, what do we do with this information? Even if it likely doesn’t always influence us directly, that’s not to say it doesn’t impact you or someone you love at some point in your life. This helps your child to transition from feeling helpless and hopeless to becoming an active advocate. Can we volunteer surrounding this topic? Can we vote for those who could change this policy? How can we speak up and get more information out? Etc.
Care for yourselves. Do something to help practice self care after doing the mentally and emotionally exhausting work of navigating this hard thing. Share with your child some examples of ways you regularly care for yourself, and help them to brainstorm ideas that may work for them. Select something to participate in together.
Pray. Pray again, but this time together. Pray over this topic, your hearts, how God may use you, all of what you discussed. Then, remind your child that you are always available and present to process difficult topics with them, and how proud you are of them for feeling comfortable enough to come to you or talk with you today. *I’m proud of you too. Doing this part of parenting is never easy, and sometimes it feels simpler to just ignore it altogether, but these conversations are laying a foundation and a framework for the future of your child, and our world. You’re playing an important part in that.