Kids have a way of asking really big questions, which we know can be difficult to answer when you don’t know the answer yourself. This is especially true now when we’re all reeling from the shock effects of the pandemic. And while your instinct might be to protect them from the realities we’re dealing with, it can also be counter productive and have negative outcomes on their emotional health in the long run.
A psychologist has these helpful tips to help guide us on how to talk to our kids about uncertain things.
It’s up to you to start the conversation
Let’s be honest. As parents it’s sometimes much easier to evade certain uncomfortable topics with our kids, to brush them under the carpet, until we have all the facts and thought through what to say. (For example, if your kid asks you if she’s still going to big school next year.)
But the idea that “we need to have all our ducks in a row to start conversations with our kids is a misconception”, says clinical psychologist and parenting coach Dr Rebecca Hershberg. This is because there’s a good chance they’ve already picked up on your cues, or conversations, and are anxious about what else you might be keeping from them.
According to Rebecca, kids have “a deep, internal need to know that their parents and caregivers are safe, and that they can be trusted.” In other words, there’s no point lying about something, thinking you’re protecting them from the messiness of life, because in the end it just confuses them more, making them worry you’ll lie to them about other things.
She says if you’re not confused about a situation, for example, that you don’t know what’s going to happen with school next year, and even when you do, things might change, then they won’t be confused either. The important thing, she says, is to present a situation clearly – and in language appropriate to their age.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t have feelings about it, she adds, but “the message needs to be that we – as parents, as human beings – can handle big feelings. And so can they! We can do hard things, and we will do them together.”
We can handle this
Lastly, when you speak to your kids about things that are uncertain, it’s not what you say, she says, but how you say things. Your tone of voice, your body language and the way you use your words is most important.
“Like the pilot facing turbulence during a flight you’re on, you want him to acknowledge that the journey has become uncomfortable and scary for you. But you also want to be reassured that he’s faced turbulence before, and he will get you through it so you can arrive at your destination safely,” Rebecca explains.
The bottom line
Though we may be scared and uncertain about what the future holds right now, our kids really need to know that we are their “pilots” and that we will do everything in our power to ensure that they land safely, no matter how bumpy the ride.They just need to stick to the course.
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.