Discussing difficult topics

Discussing difficult topics

As parents, it is our duty to insulate our children from the bad stuff happening in the world but we are also aware that we can’t protect their innocence forever. Sooner or later, we will have to talk about the difficult topics, and by difficult topics I don’t mean talking about the birds and the bees – those will have its time and place – I’m talking about death and divorce.
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We see it in movies all the time: “Daddy has gone to a faraway place and won’t be coming back anytime soon” or “Mommy has gone to a better place.”
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One couple I know live double lives. They are separated and seeing other people but maintain a unified front for their children, waiting for the right moment to break the news. The “right moment” is now five years and counting.
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My cousin never knew his dad left the family until late into his teens when it simply dawned on him that daddy was gone for way too long. I think for many of us, that is the result we hope to achieve: Our children growing up and, through the natural power of maturity, figure out the truth, someday, on their own. But for those who feel that talking about it sooner would be better than later, this article is written for you.
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I spoke with a few close friends who had gone through the process of breaking difficult news to their children and lived to tell the. Kids are surprisingly more resilient than we give them credit for, but it will depend largely on the way you handle them before, during, and after the news. Here are the tips I’ve compiled:
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Timing is crucial
What children need from you right after the news is delivered is a lot of reassurance and comfort. So don’t do it flippantly before you have to leave for work or right before you tuck them to bed. They may seem calm when the first receive the news, but the fallout will come a beat later. I remember when my mom broke the news to me of my grandpa’s passing. I took the news well, showered, sat down for my lunch but bawled my eyes out mid way through my chicken rice. Tip: Offer plenty of hugs and reassurances.
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Break news only upon confirmation
If someone is critically ill or there is an impending divorce looming ahead, keep such information to yourself until you know it for sure. This article challenges the notion that a kid isn’t too young to receive bad news, I am however very certain that a pre-teen child isn’t equipped with the mental maturity to partake in decision making discussions.
Tell your child it’s not his fault. When grandpa passed away, I felt guilty for asking him to repair my bicycle. My mother kept an even tone and explained that death happens all the time and that it was really no ones fault. Divorce cases may not be so straightforward. Your child might think that the split is happening because he didn’t do well in school or have been misbehaving. He might also assume some responsibility for trying to fix the problem. Tell him flat out that the divorce is an adult decision and has nothing to do with him.
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Break the news together.
This is more relevant for separation cases. Even if you disagree about everything else as a couple, the one thing you need to agree on is the story you’re going to tell your child. Ideally, parents should break the news as a team. One single version of the story prevents confusion and conveys that it was a mutual decision.
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Spare the details.
Your child is already going to have a lot to process. The last thing you need is to pepper the news with more information than their young minds can handle. Keep the news honest, short and concise: Just get straight to the point and allow time for your child to ask questions. Children also have a tendency to lurk around corners and eavesdrop on conversations. So be mindful of your surrounding when picking up important phone calls.
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Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.

When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.

Co-Written by Grace Chai, mother of a newborn baby boy. Grace is a new mom and currently undergoing intensive On-The-Job Training for her new role. Between pumping milk, changing diapers and taking selfies with her baby, Grace manages stress by writing about her motherhood experience for ParentTown.

The Team @ Owl Readers Club

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