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How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers

As parents, we know we need to talk to our children about strangers, but it is hard to know how to talk to our children without scaring them.

Start by helping your children understand what a stranger is. A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know very well. They don’t have to look mean and evil like TV portrays.

When I was explaining strangers to our daughter, she said, “but we don’t know policemen, so are they strangers?”

Ah, after talking about bad strangers, be sure you explain that there are also Safe Strangers. Safe strangers are those people that our children can go to for help. Firemen, policemen, and teachers are good examples.

Once your child understands what a stranger is, talk about dangerous situations.

Explain to your children that anytime an adult…

  • Asks your child to keep a secret
  • Asks them for directions or help
  • Does or says something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Encourages them to disobey you or do something wrong

They need to get away and tell an adult immediately.

Next, role-play situations that your child might be faced with. (Helping your children understand that in these situations, it is okay to say “no” to an adult). Some examples might include…

  • A stranger asks your child if they want a ride home
  • A stranger stops to ask if your child has seen their missing dog
  • A stranger asks your child for directions
  • A stranger asks your child if they want a treat or candy.

Talk to your child about what to do if they are ever faced with one of these situations.

  1. Never get close to the car, or the stranger. Keep your distance.
  2. Yell “No” as loud as you can and run away from the stranger.
  3. Tell an adult, or safe stranger what has happened right away.

Practice possible dangerous situations so your children know what to do. This will give them more confidence if the situation ever presents itself, and will give you a little peace of mind as you send them out the door each day.

Reducing Our Kids’ Worries About A Scary, Unpredictable World

Worried child in front of graffitiAs parents, we can reduce our kids’ worries about a sometimes mean, scary, unpredictable world and curb the growing “Mean World Syndrome”

School shootings. Bombings. Power storms. Terrorism. War. Pedophiles. Recession. Cyberbullying. Global warming. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Sexual abuse, COVID-19.

It’s a scary world out there for us, but how do you think the kids are faring?

Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. But if you are feeling a bit jittery about violence, turbulent weather conditions, coronavirus, or a troubled economy, imagine how our kids must feel. Talk of uncertain times permeates the world around them. Graphic television images of sickness and terrifying events just reinforce their fears.

Think about it: this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of school massacres, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and hospitals filled with sick and dying coronavirus patients from their own living rooms.

Make no mistake: the image of the world as a mean and scary place is affecting our kids’ well-being.

In fact, George Gerbner coined the term “Mean World Syndrome” to describe a phenomenon when violence-related content in the mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. And that syndrome seems to be one that our kids are catching.

Our Teens Weigh In About the Concerns For Our World

Several years ago I worked with the schools in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a glorious Norman Rockwell-type community. Picture perfect. Idyllic. Just plain wonderful. Street lamps are actually shaped like Hershey kisses. I spent time talking to students groups as I always do before addressing the parents, community and staff. It’s my way of getting a pulse on teen concerns.

I always ask the principals to give me a sample of the students so the focus group represents all genders, races, cliques, economics. I end up with a homecoming princess, a jock, a band kid, a theater student, a student council leader, a misfit. Kids. Just kids. And do they ever open up when they know someone is there to really listen.

“What are your concerns?” I asked them. And those teens began to share their worries:

“My grades.” “I don’t know if I’ll get the scholarship.” “I don’t want to let my parents down.” “Peer pressure.” “I don’t know if I’ll get into college,” they said.

“And what are your worries outside of this town?” I asked. “What concerns you about the world?”

The kids are in non-stop mode now and I’m running out of space just trying to jot down their concerns:

“Iraq.” “Iran.” “Global warming.” “Power storms!” “Terrorism.” “Violence.” “Prejudice.” “Sexual predators.” “Recession.” “Getting a job.” “Our future.”

Their “worry list” goes on and on. Then one boy stops us all with his question:

“Do you think we’ll ever live to see the future?,” he asks quietly. “I worry about that a lot. I don’t think our generation will.”

The look on every teen’s face says it all. Each child had the same concern. The fear on their faces has haunted me.

The Kids Are Worried Folks

We think kids don’t think about such “big” worries. Wrong. Those teens are no different than the hundreds of other teen focus groups in this country. And here’s proof.

A survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press of over 1300 teens nationwide found that only 25 percent feel safe from terrorism when traveling.

The vast majority of teens admitted that their world is far more difficult than the world their mom or dad grew up in. Just consider a child growing up today vs. yesterday. In the 1950s, a survey found that our children’s biggest fears were loud noises, snakes, insects, and a parent’s death. Fast forward fifty years later. The most pressing kid stressor today is still a parent’s death, but “violence” has now replaced loud noises and snakes.

But the biggest fear many teens report today: “I’ll never live to see the future.”

It hurts just to hear their top concern.

The New “Mean World Syndrome”

The fact is constantly hearing about troubling world events does more than just increase children’s anxiety.
It also alters their view of their world.

Many child experts are concerned that today’s children are developing what is called “Mean World Syndrome.” It means our children perceive their world as a “Mean and Scary Place.”

Of course we can’t protect our kids and assure their safety, but we can help allay those fears and see their world in a more positive light.

Studies have shown that about 90 percent of all anxious children can be greatly helped by learning coping skills.

Here are a few parenting strategies you can use to help reduce your kids’ anxiety particularly in these uncertain times and help them develop a more positive outlook about their world.

Tips to Curb Kid Worries About a Scary World

1. Tune Into Your Child – Start by observing your child a bit closer when a frightening event occurs. For instance:

  • Is your child afraid to be left alone or of being in dark or closed places?
  • Does he have difficulty concentrating or is he excessively irritable?
  • Does she react fearfully to sudden noses, revert to immature behavior patterns, act out or have tantrums, or nightmares?
  • Is he bedwetting, withdrawing, crying excessively, or a experiencing a change in eating or sleeping habits?

Each child copes differently, so tune into your child’s behavior. Doing so will help you recognize how your son or daughter deals with life’s pressures and know when you should help to reduce those worries.

2. Monitor Scary News – Limit your child’s viewing of any news that features an alarming event (such as a kidnapping, pedophiles, makeshift morgues and tents setup in convention halls to treat the overflow of COVID-19 patients, etc). Monitor. Monitor. Monitor!

Studies show that seeing those violent images exacerbates anxiety and increases aggression in some kids and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in others. And don’t assume because your kid is older, the news does not affect him.

A Time/Nickelodeon study found that preadolescents said that those TV news bulletins that interrupt regular programming were especially disturbing. They admitted being even more anxious if a parent wasn’t there to help explain the event to them.

If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions. Be there!

Also, monitor also your conversation with other adults so your kid doesn’t overhear your concerns.

3. Keep Yourself Strong – Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check.Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing – be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.

4. Be Emotionally PresentDon’t assume because your child isn’t talking about the latest news tragedy or the recession, that he isn’t hearing about it. Chances are he is and he needs to get the facts straight. You are the best source for that information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his feelings with you and that it’s normal to be upset.

You might start the dialogue with a simple: “What have you heard?” or “What are your friends saying?”

You don’t need to explain more than your child is ready to hear. What’s most important is letting your child know you are always available to listen or answers his concerns.

5. Do Something Proactive As a Family – One of the best ways to reduce feelings of anxiety is to help kids find proactive ways to allay their fears. It also empowers kids to realize they can make a difference in a world that might appear scary or unsafe.

  • Put together a “care package” to send to a health-care hero (a supermarket gift card, home-made masks and a hand-written note of appreciation).
  • Adopt the elderly neighbor and leave a batch of homemade cookies outside her door.
  • Or have your kids help you send “hugs” (a teddy bear, crayons, coloring book) to a child who has just lost all her earthly possessions in a flood, tornado, fire or is quarantined at home with a parent in the hospital.

6. Pass on Good News Reports – Draw your child’s attention to stories of heroism and compassion – those wonderful simple gestures of love and hope that people do for one another (that seem to always be on the back page of the paper). Find those uplifting stories in the newspaper and share them with your child.

A wonderful time to review them is right before your child goes to sleep. You can also encourage your kids to watch for little actions of kindness they see others do and report them at the dinner table. Many families call these “Good News Reports.”

It’s important to assure your children that there’s more to the world than threats and fear. Your actions can make a big difference in helping to send them that message.

7. Teach Anxiety-Reducing Techniques – Anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but in times like these those worries can be overwhelming. Here are just a few techniques you can help your child learn to use to cope with worries:

• Self-talk. Teach your child to say a statement inside her head to help her stay calm and handle the worries. Here are a few:

“Chill out, calm down.”

“I can do this.”

“Stay calm and breathe slowly.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Go away worry. You can’t get me!”

• Worry melting. Ask your kid to find the spot in his body where he feels the most tension; perhaps his neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. He then closes his eyes, concentrates on the spot, tensing it up for three or four seconds, and then lets it go. While doing so, tell him to imagine the worry slowly melting away. Yoga or deep breathing exercises seem to be helpful for girls.

• Visualize a calm place. Ask your kid to think of an actual place he’s been where he feels peaceful. For instance: the beach, his bed, grandpa’s backyard, a tree house. When anxiety kicks in, tell him to close his eyes, imagine that spot, while breathing slowly and letting the worry fly slowly away.

Final Thoughts

These are tough times for everyone — but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all the news. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn strategies to cope and those tools will build our children’s resilience to handle whatever comes their way.

  • Anxious kids are two to four times more likely to develop depression, and, as teens, are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse.
  • Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years.

If your child shows signs of anxiety for more than a few weeks or if you’re concerned, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Please.

Now take three slow deep breaths. What’s your first step to help your family?

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Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Bedtime

Last updated on March 16th, 2021 at 02:35 pm

Bedtime is hard for many families. Everyone is tired, worn out, and short on patience. As parents, if we stick to a routine and change the way we think about putting our kids to bed, it will really help with the bedtime battles. It can be a great time of day when we relax, connect, listen, talk and teach.

Remember, sleep breeds sleep. The more your child sleeps, the more your child will sleep. We need to stop thinking that skipping naps will make getting them into bed easier.

To make bedtime an enjoyable time of day for everyone, ESTABLISH A ROUTINE. By sticking to a routine, kids know what to expect. This will help them feel safe and secure because things are predictable. Predictability brings comfort.

Your routine should include…

  • Setting a bed time and sticking with it. The more lenient you are with bedtime, the more going to bed will be a battle.
  • Starting your bedtime routine at least 30 minutes before you want your kids to be in bed. This will allow time for your child to wind down, just like we need to do. Rushing them through bedtime prep does not allow them to do and say all that they need to in order to feel ready to stay quiet and sleep.
  • Establish a sequence in which you will accomplish the same bedtime tasks every night. (For example…Put on Pj’s, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, read a book, talk about the day, say prayers, hugs and kisses, lights out).
  • Change the way you think about bedtime. Time to start thinking about bedtime as a way to connect with our children. A time to laugh and snuggle and talk.

When talking to your kids about bedtime…

Don’t threaten. (“If you don’t go to sleep, you can’t play tomorrow”). This only makes things worse. Instead, stick to a routine, give lots of time to get ready for bed, and talk about the fun things that you will do, like “Tell me what you liked best about today and then we will turn out the lights”.

When kids get out of bed, be firm and say “You need to sleep in your bed”. Then, with little to no words at all, return them to their beds. At first, you might have to do this a lot. Keep with and don’t give in, not even one night.

Don’t get 10 glasses of water. Only respond to requests once. Explain that they can have one request and that is all. They will learn to use that request wisely and pretty soon, the requests will stop. Going up every time they call will fuel the fire and drag the process out for hours.

If bedtimes are already difficult in your family, remember that behavior can be modified. Establish and stick to your routine, don’t give up hope, be patient and don’t quit.

Kids Not Communicating: Are you speaking their language?

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:52 pm

While I was kicking the soccer ball with a nine-year-old boy this week, it struck me that family conversations like The Family Meeting really need to be conducted outside in the fresh air. Who likes to be cooped up around the dinner table talking about what needs improving? I actually like the dinner table, ’cause it provides structure for conversations and easy opportunities for life lessons, not to mention the delicious food. But let’s just for a moment, consider that you might be willing to interact with your kids, teach them new skills and get close to their hearts with a bit of outdoor movement.

For many years, I have been working with families in their homes, teaching brain-based parenting skills. These families are kind, involved and caring. Often they have a child with a brain uniqueness such as ADHD. But increasingly, they are families just like yours where parents simply feel overwhelmed, children won’t do as they are told or home organization needs a bit of a touch up. Having earned my master’s degree in physical education longer ago than I care to admit, it has always struck me that when we play with our children they communicate better, feel more attached and even open up more.

So I’ve been thinking lately, “Are we speaking the child’s language or do we need to change things up?

What’s New? The past few years, I’ve been walking into homes with hoola-hoops, exercise balls and SPARKPE equipment, more than the traditional therapy fare. When we introduce families to the concept that we need to SEE IT, SAY IT, WRITE IT, PLAY IT and BUILD IT to LEARN IT, most families are game.

Where to start? Well you likely have sports equipment, lawn chairs, a chess set, a few games and other cool stuff in your home calling out to be used. You could make a portable family activities bag. I have a huge duffel bag I tote on wheels that has all sorts of goodies for engagement.

Inside are:

  • 3 marker boards
  • 10 expo markers
  • A set of base ten math blocks (kids love these for math, building or communicating)
  • 6 tennis balls
  • 6 polyspots
  • 3 cones
  • 1 dodge ball
  • 1 soccer ball
  • 1 deck of cards
  • White paper, graph paper, pens, stickers, glue, tape, scissors and more

What to do?

Got something on your mind? Want to know about your child’s day? Want to help your children practice taking turns and sharing? Family activities open the opportunity for exploration and learning.

A few fast ideas:

1. Kick the soccer ball back and forth, stand rather close together at first so that even beginners experience the feeling of accomplishment.

Now make a game out of it.

  • Parent: “Do you want to play the What’s the right thing to do game?”
  • Child: “No, I just want to play.”
  • Parent: “That’s right, we’ll play. I’ll name a situation when I kick the ball, then you can give me a good idea when you kick the ball. Let’s see.” “What’s the right thing to do when your classmate talks to you when you’re both supposed to be paying attention to the teacher?”
  • Child: “I just ignore him.”
  • Parent: “Right, good idea. What can you actually say?”
  • Child: “I can say, be quiet we’ll get in trouble.”

Change up the questions, give your child the opportunity to ask the questions when he or she gets familiar with the game.

You can have conversations about anything:

  • What family contributions (tasks) can the kids make in our home?
  • What can we do when Johnny takes our toys in the sandbox?
  • What do we do with our bodies when mom says, No!
  • What are three nice things we can do instead of rolling our eyes at our sister.
  • What are three things we can do as a family this weekend?

2. Bounce the tennis ball. There is nothing like rhythm to get the brain engaged. Alternate choosing a new rhythm to bounce the tennis ball to. I always have one ball for each person, bouncing the ball on your own is easier that bouncing it to another person.

3. Pass the talking ball. Are your kids all talking at one time? Identify one ball, stuffed animal or bean bag as the “talking ball.” When you sit or stand to talk as a family be it outside your car, at the kitchen table or in the store, if things get heated or muddled-up have one person hold the ball and only that person speaks everyone else listens.

4. Use many different modalities, if your kids generate a good idea while playing ball or chess, ask them to write it on the marker board to teach other family members later.

5. Play 15-30 minutes at a time. Honestly, a good solid exploration can take place in as little as three minutes.

If this is new to you you may be skeptical or thinks it’s silly. But when you see how the kids connect with you, talk with more ease and use their creativity in making new games, you’ll appreciate the magic of moving while talking. There is no one way to move and talk, but there is ample evidence that movement enhances brain function, improves concentration, decreases impulsivity and engages the brain. For the scientists among you, consider taking a peek at some of the following books:

So get moving before you start talking. Let us know what your family comes up with. We’re interested.

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This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method”. Used in practice for a number of years, The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

 

 

Talking With Our Kids After Acts of Violence and Anti-Semitism

Last updated on December 10th, 2018 at 06:30 pm

The violence that the Tree of Life Synagogue experienced and the hatred that was behind it has been terrifying. It is heartbreaking and for many angering. We need healing–and so do our kids.

Many of us wonder how do we speak to our children about acts of terror when we cannot fully comprehend them ourselves. We are thrown by such unexpected and horrific violence. It makes sense that talking to our kids feels daunting. Truthfully, it is.

Yet, talking to our kids is essential. While we may wish to avoid talking about violence and anti-Semitism; sadly our children hear and learn about the through other sources. Terror, violence, bigotry are part of the world we live in and on the news frequently. By engaging our children we are ensuring that they do not have encounter these scary issues alone. We may wish to shield our children, but it is as important to prepare them and comfort them.

It is difficult to watch our children in pain or fear. While parents can’t make their children’s pain disappear, you can help to instill in children the ability to cope with loss and cultivate a sense of resilience. There are ways parents can engage their children in conversation, storytelling, prayer and ritual, which can be useful tools in supporting them. Ultimately, parents play an important role in offering safety and helping them make meaning and interpreting such a significant event.

Here are some suggestions to prepare you and support you in the challenge of responding to the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue with meaningful and comforting conversations with your children:

Check in with yourself

All of us are affected by this horrifying act. Before talking with your child make sure you are in a place to do so to offer yourself as a listener. If you need to talk with someone to process your emotions, please do so. It is ok to be emotional in the presence of your children, but make sure to the best of your ability that you are centered enough to be there for your child.

Be Present, Not Perfect

Perfection is not the goal, being present is. There are no perfect words. While it may seem like kids want answers, they also need to feel like they are being listened to. See what they already know. Children are perceptive. They may have heard directly about the tragedy from the news or from other children. But even if they have not, children are quite perceptive. They can sense when their parents are keenly attuned to watching television, checking their phone, having hushed conversations. This can create confusion and lead them to create some of their own conclusions. Be present to them can alleviate that.

Think about some prompts that can get them started. You can check in with them very generally about how they are feeling or about their day. Or you may want to ask them a questions like “You may have heard that something very sad happened, what have you heard?”

Establish that you are a person your children can speak to about their fears, their confusions, their feelings. Knowing that someone will listen creates comfort, but also do not force conversation. If they need take the conversation in small pieces.

Focus on Understanding

Prioritize your child’s feelings even if it feels self-focused. Depending on the age, children are often most concerned about the direct impact on them. While we want to support them to be caring and concerned members of the community, start where they are. Address their feelings, on their level. Knowing that they are safe is important and allows them to move on to concern for others and understanding more of what happened. Your willingness to listen to them models very important behavior for the long term.

Helping children develop a palette of feelings is important. Explore with them what they are feeling and how they feel it.

Start with Simplicity

Our children do not need to know everything right away. Limit how much exposure they have to news. Be discerning about what information they need. Give them as much information as they need and are able to process, both about this particular act of violence and also about the violent nature of anti-Semitism. Violence has lasting effects on children so be judicious; neither shelter them nor deluge them.

As a young child, I was exposed to too much violent information and images of the Holocaust and it was unhealthy and unproductive. We have much better ways of introducing our children to these topics. Start with the underlying values of dignity, respect, loving kindness. Share with them the reassuring responses of courage, concern and unity.

For very young children, use the most basic language and concepts. Follow their lead; no need to complicate things for them.

Assure and Equip Them

Violence and terror are so rattling because they are beyond our control. Hate crimes pack a double whammy because not only does it undermine our control, but we feel targeted for who we are.

Worried child in front of graffitiWith our children we need to both support them in acting on areas where they do have control of their own safety and feeling connected to who they are. Parenting experts recommend looking at the ways where young children can help protect themselves and pointing that out. In an article in Parents Magazine, “How to Talk to Kids About Terrorism” by Ellen Sturm Niz, there is great advice by Denise Daniels. “Daniels recommends talking to little kids about strategies they use for keeping themselves safe, like wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet when riding a bike, and practicing fire drills. “Simple little things like that all help kids think, ‘Well, gosh, there are things I can do to keep myself safe.'”

Focusing on ways that children actually do have control in many areas of keeping themselves safe and understanding how you keep them safe is important.

Older kids can be encouraged to take their concern into action. Whether it is by raising money for the communities affected or educating others about bias and bigotry knowing they can take their worry and turn into impact is an important lesson. (It also applies to us; it is why I am writing this.)

Revisit the conversation

You can discuss this more than once. Information keeps coming in to our children from friends, snippets of conversations at school. Particularly, around issues like anti-Semitism, keeping the channels open, is important to support our kids in forming a positive identity and pride in who they are. They may also experience heightened awareness of who they are as a Jew and the vulnerability it causes. Your presence is invaluable in assuring their ability to claim their Jewishness as a vital part of who they are.

You can find children’s book for all ages on the ADL Website to help further the conversation on anti-Semitism. Similarly you can find resources to keep the discussion going at the PJ Library Website, too. And when the bombing in Paris occurred, I found this article in The Guardian had very useful book recommendations for children on terror, also note the suggestions they crowdsourced at the end.

Resilience is Spiritual, Not Just Practical

While my Jewish education about anti-Semitism and violence was heavy handed, it was balanced out by the importance of ritual and prayer. Understanding that your children have a spiritual is important.

For parents, it can feel incredibly challenging to understand the best ways to respond to the spiritual issues and questions that arise from kids. While there is a strong connection between the psychological aspects of fear and grief and the spiritual ones, many people feel particularly inadequate in providing what children need spiritually to navigate loss of this magnitude. Many children have an inherent way of seeing the world through a spiritual lens–with a sense of wonder, awe and a desire to seek.

How do you answer where is God in all of this? Again, it is fine and expected not to always have definitive answers, but to recognize that this is an opportunity to ask them them what they think. By all means, share with them your beliefs.

For me, this is an opportunity to talk about God being present when we create openings for God’s presence. God is in the healing and the comfort; in the grieving and in tears. We all have choices how much we want to connect to godliness and the more open we are, the more connected we are.

Rituals and prayers are containers for the unspeakable and important channels for our feelings. Saying kaddish, lighting candles, doing tzedakah can be important ways to move beyond just words of explanation. Also rituals of safekeeping, like the bedtime Shema or chanting prayers like “Hareni m’kabel alai…”, I take upon myself the mitzvah of loving my fellow human being as myself” upon waking create a consistency and sense of comfort and purpose.

Taking a child to a vigil or attending services are important ways for them to feel like they belong.

And this approach, I believe is a double healing in that it both offers meaningful solace and connects them deeply to being Jewish and a part of the Jewish community.

There is no life without loss: In conclusion, it compounds our heartbreak to see our children scared and in pain. While parents can’t make our children’s pain disappear after such violence, they can help to instill in children the ability to cope with loss and cultivate a sense of resilience. Helping children navigate terror and bias is extremely important because they are beginning to assimilate new information, which is confusing and fraught. The role of parents is to be companions with their kids on this challenging aspect of life, not to pretend it didn’t happen. This is the learning of a lifetime and we grow as we prepare and love our children through these unspeakable events.

May we find comfort and strength together.

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Editor’s Note: Although Pediatric Safety is a secular publication, we felt these words of support and healing from Rabbi Joshua touched all of us. We were glad we could share them with you

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Difficult Subjects

Last updated on November 2nd, 2018 at 11:10 pm

As parents, we will have numerous opportunities to talk to our children about tough subjects. Topics like death, drugs, bullying and sex…it can be intimidating to know how to engage in these types of conversations.

To make it even more challenging – talking to your children about drugs is a very different conversation than talking to your kids about death. That’s why we created the “How to talk to your kids” series – to give you the advice and tools you need as a parent to handle each subject – no matter how tricky (or uncomfortable) it gets.

On a positive note, although each situation will be different, there are some key points to remember that we can use with our children to help any and all tough conversations run more smoothly.
  • Start the Conversation-Early: Naturally, we want to put off the “tough topics” until we have to. But instead of waiting for these tough topics to find you and your family, start early and talk to your children first. For example, instead of waiting for your child to tell you they have been approached by a stranger, reference the “How to talk to your kids about strangers” post and prepare them first, so they know what to say and how to handle the situation long before it happens.
  • Create an open environment: Provide opportunities for your children to talk about how they feel, what they are worried about, what they are hearing and seeing at school and through the media. We do this by not judging, not over-scheduling our children (so we have time to be with them), and being available at the crossroads to listen. Spend one-on-one time together and build trust.
  • Listen to your child: Determine when your children like to talk. Maybe it is right after school, or at night before bed. Be available during those times. Then let go of your own agenda and really hear your child. Don’t just listen so you can talk. Get to their level, look them in the eyes, and talk less than they do. Don’t ever shut them down and remember that you don’t have to comment on everything.
  • Be honest: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers to their questions. Be honest and tell the truth. We see this a lot with the topic of death. Parents don’t know how to talk to their children, so they might say “grandma is just sleeping.” This just causes more stress and confusion and now you have to answer more hard questions, like “when is grandma going to wake up?” (Keep reading the “How to talk to your kids” series to learn more tips on how to handle specific conversations such as death, sex, drugs, and even what to do when mommy is sick).
  • Be patient: Tough conversations take time. Don’t worry about saying it all the first time you converse. Listen more than you talk, and be patient and hear the entire conversation.
  • Stay on their level: Answer your children’s questions on a level that they can understand. Simple words and explanations work best. Keep the facts appropriate for their age and don’t include more facts than necessary.
  • Use everyday opportunities to talk: Did you just watch a movie where a child was bullied? Use it as a lead-in, to a conversation about bullying. Keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunities that present themselves everyday. They can be natural “openers” for the tough topics. Dr Michele Borba, recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development, offers some wonderful advice to parents on how they can recognize bullying at any age. As she says “the more we know about bullying, the better we will be able to parent our children”
  • Revisit: Talking about the “tough stuff” once is not enough. Revisit the topics and make yourself available when they have questions they want to revisit.

As parents, if we want to successfully talk to our kids about tough topics, we have to first develop a trusting and comfortable relationship with them. The above 8 suggestions can help us set the stage to better prepare them, and you, for the tough conversations and situations to come.

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