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How to Talk to Your Girl About Difficult Events

Posted Michelle Klavohn on 9/9/2014 |


A tricky area of nurturing the life of your girl involves how to navigate conversations around sensitive issues. A traumatic event like 9/11. A death in the family. Mom and Dad splitting up. These interactions are hard to discuss for a number of reasons: Parents may be struggling with their own emotional management. It’s often hard to know what to say. And many worry that having a conversation about a tough topic will somehow just magnify the issue.

These guidelines might help you find a sense of direction for approaching difficult subjects with your children:

They Know More than You Think

Most kids have incredible antenna for information, especially the kind that is sensitive. Be aware that your girl very likely has watched your cues and probably overheard conversations that are already formulating responses inside of her.

Kids also have access to many kinds of media these days. When videos from 9/11 are circulating on the anniversary of the tragedy or another troubling incident is dominating the news, your girl likely has seen or heard something about it.

Avoid Extremes

Kids experience discomfort when a caregiver goes to one of two excesses in response to something: over-communicating or under-communicating. Some parents want the lines of dialog to be open so much that a child is simply given more information than she can handle either developmentally or emotionally.

The other extreme involves under-communication. At this end of the spectrum, parents treat difficult topics as taboo and avoid discussion altogether with their girl. This leaves her on her own to wrestle with important questions, to worry about outcomes and to try to fill in the gaps where she needs to have information.

Take Cues from Your Child

Each child is unique, so the best approach involves observing the needs of your girl. Is she eavesdropping on adult conversation? Do you notice increased anxiety or a change in behavior? Is she paying close attention to the news story that is on TV?  These are often cues that she needs information and emotional comfort. Take these prompts to ask your girl what questions she has. Respond to her with simple, honest and brief answers, and then watch for signals—either verbally or nonverbally—that the conversation has provided the information and comfort she needs.

Validate Feelings

Sad or difficult circumstances warrant an emotional response and caregivers go a long way to providing a safe place for their children when they offer responses like, “I can see that makes you very sad” or “You are hurt because you won’t get to see Dad as much” or “That news story made me sad too.” When feelings are recognized, named and respected it does wonders for the emotional world of your girl… as it does for all of us.

We thank Michelle for being a guest author for Remarkable! Michelle is a writer, college instructor, family coach and fan of Girls on the Run. Her e-newsletter Families that Thrive delves into a new topic each week with inspiration and advice.


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