Talking to your kids about stressful events can be difficult. Iu2019ve put together 5 tips for talking to your kids about stressful events that will help them process their emotions and move forward. 1. Keep the conversation age-appropriate 2. Ask open-ended questions 3. Listen 4. Validate 5. Acknowledge that it was scary for them
5 Tips to Help Kids Talk About Stressful Events
There are a number of ways you can talk to your kids about stressful events. Make it fun by talking about the event through a game. Make it age-appropriate by answering any questions they have. Use open-ended questions to ask them about how they feel. Listen to them to identify their stressors. Validate their feelings. Make sure they feel safe to share. Here are 5 ways to talk to kids about stress. 1. Ask Kids Open-Ended Questions About What Theyu2019re Feeling Ask open-ended questions to let kids express how they are feeling. Listen for: Intent Worries Loss When they talk about how they feel, listen for the feelings, the type of feelings. Whatu2019s coming up in their minds? Is there a lot of worry? Is there a lot of loss? Are they mostly worried?
Keep the Conversation Age-appropriate
Keep the conversation about the stressful event open ended and non-judgmental. If you say, u201cYour sister broke her arm!u201d or u201cYou got into a fight at school,u201d that statement will come with a judgement about the event. Instead, say, u201cYou lost a game,u201d or u201cYour sister wasnu2019t happy.u201d Kidsu2019 brains arenu2019t able to differentiate between an action or an emotion u2014 a happy smile means the same as a meltdown. So saying something like u201cYou played soccer and you got upsetu201d doesnu2019t always cut it. Instead, go through the conversation by saying, u201cMy daughteru2019s sister broke her arm. She was really upset because she doesnu2019t like getting hurt. I know that was really hard for her.u201d Then ask open-ended questions that reflect the emotional journey your child is going through.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Itu2019s natural to want to be empathetic but kids arenu2019t always in the same emotional place as adults. They have their own perspectives on whatu2019s happening and what it means to them. Kids will often say things like, u201cIu2019m not scared,u201d or, u201cI donu2019t feel nervous.u201d Your job is to listen to them and validate what theyu2019re saying. You can tell them that their feelings are totally valid and that youu2019re feeling the same way. When you validate your child, theyu2019ll feel like you are listening to them and can continue with their story. By addressing the issue as an issue, you allow them to continue their story with less interruption. You wonu2019t steer the conversation back to the event. Youu2019ll instead give your child space to continue their story. Listen and validate. Itu2019s OK to cry. Youu2019re not alone.
Your kids may not want to talk about the event, but they will answer you if you ask them questions. u201cIf your child says u2018I canu2019t talk about itu2019, ask u2018What do you think of that?u2019, u2018How do you feel about it?u2019, or u2018Tell me how it made you feel?u2019, says Ms. Piechocki. u201cListen, validate, and, if you choose, answer some of your childu2019s questions.u201d Ask open-ended questions Having a conversation where you ask your kids open-ended questions about their event and how they felt about it helps them open up and talk about what happened without the added pressure of you asking them to talk. For example, you can say something like: How did it make you feel when you were upset? What did you do to help? How did you feel when you were sad? Are you sad right now?
Rather than blaming your kids for feeling a certain way, you need to validate that it was a scary thing to go through and that they are not alone. You can also emphasize that we are all afraid at times, but we move through it. For example, you could say, u201cIu2019m so proud of you for being strong and brave in how you handled the scary things that happened to you.u201d Ask Open-Ended Questions Ask your kids open-ended questions like, u201cWhat is it like?u201d, u201cWhat do you want to do differently next time?u201d or u201cHow do you feel?u201d Listen This one is really important. Children who are not listened to are often the ones that struggle the most. They can often grow up to be people that feel like they do not have any say or that they are not good enough or that they are not seen or heard.
Acknowledge it Was Scary For Them
Even the best parent canu2019t make it seem like events such as natural disasters, natural disasters and even scary movies and scary books arenu2019t scary. But parents can let their children know that they know theyu2019re scared. For example, they can say, u201cYou were really scared when the car ride felt like it was going too fast.u201d Ask Open-Ended Questions Ask open-ended questions. That means questions you donu2019t know the answers to. If your child wants to know whether something is safe or not, ask them what they think is safe. This will help them learn to make decisions based on their own feelings rather than your judgement. Ask them if they think theyu2019re being silly and should be worried, then tell them that if you are worried, you are being silly.
Sometimes itu2019s hard to share bad news with our kids. Even the thought of telling our kids that their father had cancer at age 14 was nearly impossible. And we never know what we can expect from them as they grow older. There could be more traumatic events that will make us uncomfortable. Unfortunately, kids are pretty resilient creatures, so we should just keep in mind that itu2019s hard to empathize with another personu2019s emotions. So we canu2019t expect them to understand when weu2019re nervous or scared, too. As parents, we canu2019t protect them from the world. So we can only provide the support they need to be healthy and happy. If you have tips for how to talk to kids about stressful events, leave a comment below.