Psych Central

Parenting Articles

Talking With Children About Death

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

shutterstock_167842937A close friend of your child dies unexpectedly in a horrific car crash. An aunt loses her battle with cancer. The beloved cat has to be put to sleep. A parent is diagnosed with a terminal disease.

All these are examples of ways children can encounter death for the first time.

A child’s first experience of death often comes when a pet dies. For many children, losing a beloved animal can be the most intense sadness they have felt. It’s important for parents to take a child’s feelings on this seriously, and allow them to grieve how they need to.

Depending on your child’s age, experts suggest different ways of talking about death with your child.

For the very youngest of children, from infancy up to around three years old, kids cannot understand what it means to die, but they still feel the loss. For this age, focus on providing safety and comfort and love. Use simple terms to explain the death.

Preschool children may act out their emotions. Some kids become withdrawn. Others act out and become angry or destructive, or have mood swings. Children might have stomach aches or not feel good. Again, provide support and love. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings if they are able to. At this age, children may begin to draw about their emotions.

School age children have a better understanding of death. You want to be as honest as you can. If you have a belief in the afterlife, your child may find it comforting to think that their friend who died is in heaven. If the idea of life after death is not something you believe in, it’s fine to say that we just don’t know what happens after we die or that we simply don’t exist anymore. Help them find comfort in remembering their friend or loved one. Some kids find it helpful to plant a flower or tree as a reminder of the person who died.

Teenagers may react in both childish ways and adult ways. If your teen processes things verbally, he or she may need to discuss the …


When Your Teen is Being Bullied: 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Monday, March 24th, 2014

shutterstock_74330686No parent wants to find out that their child is being bullied. Yet this is a situation in which many parents find themselves, and it can be incredibly scary and confusing.

Teens are bullied over the same thing generation after generation: physical differences such as weight, acne and facial features, speech differences, mental abilities/disabilities.

Teens get bullied verbally, physically (tripping down the hall, book bumping), and through writing.

One significant difference that teens face now is the vast amount of technology available, which has changed the dynamic of bullying behavior.

Teens are attacked through social media such as Facebook, text messages are sent, photos are sent and become viral in seconds. Sexting is not uncommon.

When you were a teenager, pictures were physical. Notes were on paper. And while rumors could get around quickly, they were not recorded forever on the world wide web.

As a parent of a teen, you can make a difference when your child is being bullied.

Here are 5 things that all parents of teens need to know.

  1. When your child says they are being picked on or bullied, believe them. Your teen may act confident and happy while in your presence, but at school she may behave differently.
  2. Take action. This may be meeting with school administrators and being an advocate for your child. It may be getting him counseling. It may be brainstorming with him about ways to stand up to others if he feels comfortable with this.
  3. Know your school’s policy, and hold them to it. More than once I’ve had to write or meet with school administrators to advocate for a student. It is not your child’s job to ignore the bullies; gaining strength to deal with bullying behaviors may be something to be worked on but the school has a duty to protect your teen and make school a safe place. This could mean changing schedules, having a teen who is hurting your son or daughter attend counseling sessions, or discipline for them.
  4. Talk to your child about how she feels. Does she think about dying? Is she hurting herself? Who are her friends?
  5. Bullying can be a …

The Importance of Connection, Part 2: Making a Difference in Someone’s Life Will Make a Difference in Yours

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Humans are all about community. By connecting with others, we find support, meaning, reassurance, and joy. Even the healthiest among us feels lonely and isolated at times. For those who struggle with physical or mental disabilities, the isolation can feel even greater.

How to people do it?


The Importance of Connection, Part 1: How to Get and Stay Connected

Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Everyone needs to feel connected.

Everyone needs to feel connected.

When I first became a bird owner, I noticed that my cockatiel Sunshine would only eat when someone was near her.

Most birds are flock animals; they rely on the members of their community for companionship, safety, and parenting.

In the wild, Sunshine would only eat with her flock members there to watch out for her.

Like many other animals, humans have an inborn need for community that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental health and happiness.

Not everyone needs 40 friends, but everyone needs someone they can rely on to help them through the harshness of life.

WHAT KEEPS US FROM BEING CONNECTED TO OTHERS?

  • For some people, it’s depression. One of the key signs of depression is withdrawing from social situations. People who become depressed turn down invitations, fail to show up to gatherings, and limit phone calls and visits with friends.
  • Other times, it can be a change in life — a move, divorce, death in the family, or illness. Many adults I’ve spoken to have said that when they graduated from high school or college they found they had a hard time making new friends in the ‘adult’ or working world.
  • Many people are so afraid of rejection that they stay away from getting close to others.

Excuse or Explanation: Is There a Difference?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

shutterstock_43783042“It wasn’t my fault!”
“She made me do it!”
“Everyone else was doing it!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“He started it!”

Do these sound familiar?

For some people, these phrases may bring back memories of their childhood, or they may have heard these statements from their kids.

Despite sounding childish, everyone has said something similar in their adult life to a spouse, police officer, family member, or friend.

In counseling sessions, I frequently hear how people struggle with the difference between excuses and explanations.

Some people hesitate to give any explanations; they see explanations and excuses as the same thing, and they don’t want to be seen as giving excuses.

Others go to the other extreme and take no accountability for his or her own actions, blaming everything from their upbringing, their stress load, their partner or kids, for their wrongdoing.

Although it can sometimes be unclear, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Excuses are often used to deny responsibility. People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Explanations help clarify the circumstances of a particular event. Explanations are less emotional and less pressured than excuses.

Sometimes, the only one who can really know if their statement is an excuse or an explanation is the one saying it. Telling the police who pulled you over that you are running late for work is a good example of this. If you were hoping to get out of a ticket or lying, it was probably an excuse. If the officer asked why you were driving 30 in a 25, and you answered honestly, it was an explanation.

Why does it matter?

Consider the following situation:

Your 14-year-old daughter has brought home a failing grade on her science report. You ask her what happens. She says:

  1. “It’s not my fault! The teacher wasn’t clear on what to include in the project. Everyone else got a bad grade, too.”                                               or:
  2. “I didn’t understand what the teacher said, and …

Lessons in Love Part 1: Helping Children Learn to Love

Monday, February 11th, 2013

shutterstock_114535009One of the most important jobs of a parent is to teach a child what it means to love and to be loved.

When a child learns to love herself, she learns acceptance, pride, self-esteem, and inner strength. When a child learns to love others, he learns how to make connections with others, how it feels to be kind, and how to be vulnerable. When a child learns how to be loved, he learns that he is a person worth loving, that he is valued and wanted.


Talking to Your Children About Mental Illness

Monday, January 28th, 2013

 

If you’re a parent with a mental illness, or if someone in your  family is mentally ill, you may struggle with how to talk about it with  your children. You may feel embarrassed or even ashamed about your disease.

Even thought it can be difficult, it’s important to create a safe space for kids to hear and ask questions about the illness that affects you or your partner.

Here are five tips to help you get started.


Kids and Online Pornography – What You Need to Know

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Many parents have a strong gut-reaction when they discover that their son or daughter has viewed sexually explicit content.

The internet has made hardcore pornography easily accessible to anyone with a computer and online access. 20 years ago a person would have to take multiple steps to see porn. They would have to find out where it’s sold, get to the store, find the gumption to go in and make the purchase. And the magazine would have a beginning and an end.

Now one simply has to Google whatever they’re looking for, and hundreds and thousands of pictures, webcams, and videos pop up, many for free. Unlike the pornography that shows up in print, the internet doesn’t end. A person could look at pornography day and night and still see new images.

As a parent, or adult who works with or cares about kids, here are some things you need to know about online pornography.


6 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Another year of holiday joy is upon us; another year of holiday chaos, stress, and anxiety is here, as well.

For many families, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years are times for reunions, reconnecting, and enjoying one another.

Yet however great the celebrations are, holidays are stressful. Here are six tips for making your holidays as peaceful and stress-free as possible.

  1. Don’t over-plan. It can be tempting to arrange to first swing by grandma’s, then see your in-law’s at their home, then return and make a holiday dinner for your family and your out-of-town brother and his five kids. Don’t do it. The holidays are time for reconnecting, but if you’re bitter, grumpy, and yelling at your spouse, you (and the rest of your family) will be miserable and disconnected.
  2. Realize that you can’t please everyone. The more people who are involved in a situation, the greater the chance for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. This year your parents might not be able to see the kids open up their presents or you may miss seeing your sisters at Thanksgiving. Do the best that you can with the limited time and energy you have.
  3. Make a budget, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt purchasing things you can’t afford, or else come January you’ll regret it.  Families often will have a year when to make all of their gifts by hand, or they’ll do a gift exchange rather than purchasing things for everyone. The holidays are a time for sharing and showing love. You don’t need to purchase anything for this. Remember, you and your family and friends will not remember the gifts you gave them, or the amazing pies you baked. They’ll remember the feelings they experienced, and the stories and laughter shared.
  4. Think about what feelings you want to experience during the holidays. Do you want a frantic excited holiday, or a serene and peaceful one? Do you want to be surrounded by tons of people, or have a more intimate time with your loved ones? Plan your day with this in mind.
  5. Be aware of your anxiety and stress …

Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of a Life Cut Short

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Pregnancy. It’s a time when parents dream of the child they will someday meet, when they look through baby books for names, decide on nursery decor, and imagine what life will be like when their child arrives.

When these dreams and hopes are cut short by miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of life hours or days after birth, the pain is unmeasurable.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. 

The statistics on pregnancies that end in miscarriage or neonatal deaths (less than 28 days old) are staggering. One in four women has experienced this kind of loss. And yet there continues to be a shroud of secrecy about it.

Some women feel ashamed of their grief and keep it to themselves. Others believe that something is wrong with them because months or even years after the miscarriage or loss they have to hold back tears when their friends celebrate a new birth, a coworker announces her pregnancy, or they’re invited to a baby shower.

If you have experienced the loss of a child in pregnancy or after birth, whatever you are experiencing is okay. Each person, each family, experiences loss differently. There is no one ‘normal’ or right way to grieve a baby who is gone too soon.

Remember:

  • Your loss is individual, and there is no clear road-map as to how your grief will be expressed and experienced.
  • Many parents take pictures of their child who was born still, hold them, rock them, and talk to them. It’s natural to need to say goodbye.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and mourn the life that could have been. There is no time-line as to when your grief will ease.
  • It’s okay to talk about your child to others. Your son’s or daughter’s  life may have been cut short, but it still mattered and it was still real.
  • You may feel alone in this, but know that pregnancy loss is something that many, many women experience. Sadly,  few people  talk about it.
  • It’s okay to reach out to others for support. It’s okay to not know what you need, or to need different …

 

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