It seems like every day I see something more horrific in the news. Natural disasters are terrible and sad but what feels even more inexplicable are the things that we do to each other. This week alone I read an article comparing and contrasting three unrelated shootings in different cities and another about how a father used Facebook to auction off his 16 year old daughter to the highest bidder.

I know you are struggling to make sense of them too….  But at least we are adults.

How on Earth to explain this to a kid?

First, think about your family values.  I think before you have any big conversations with kids, it's important to have an idea of what you want to instill in them for life.  So what are they?  Feel free to make a list, I can wait.  Education?  Kindness?  Honesty?  Faith/spirituality?  Community?  Being able to ground all the big things in the values you want to impart, will help you instill and reinforce the message you want to give them.

Next, think about their age and what they need to know.  The information a 5 year old needs is very different than what a 15 year old needs.  In fact, depending on the age and developmental stage of your child, you will need to present this differently.

Before you bring it up, here are some thoughts

  1. If I don't tell my kid, will are they likely to find out from someone else?  When the answer yes, then it makes sense to get in front of it.  If the answer is no, but you think they are old enough and emotionally capable of having a thoughtful conversation about it (like say a 15 year old), then bringing it up as a topic of conversation and allowing them to participate (not just be lectured) can give you an opportunity to inject your values.
  2. Am I emotionally ready to have the conversation?  I know your kid has zinged you with at least a couple of big questions that seemed to come from absolutely no where.  This might be a time when you can take a beat and compose yourself before you approach it.  I'm in no way suggesting that you need to be monotone and disconnected from the topic but it would be good if you were able to be emotionally available for them if/when they get upset about the topic.
  3. What do I need them to know about it?  In a couple of different places, I have heard people say that when something bad happens, look for the helpers.  That may or may not be the message you want to impart but lean on your family values here.  What do you want them to take away?  It is important to ground it in something so that they are not left to fend for themselves intellectually.  You are the first person to help them start to understand a very big and complicated world.  DO NOT skip this step it is probably the most important one.
  4. Be available for follow up, even if you don't know the answers.  It is totally ok not to know what to say each time.  Especially once our kid is older, being able to demonstrate the gray in the world can be very powerful.  You have a unique opportunity to show them what it is like to sit in discomfort, fear, anxiety without having to make poor choices (like using chemicals to numb out, using social media to lash out, making rash and/or dangerous choices).

Keep in mind

There is no perfect anything.  Your words may not come out right, your kid might get upset.  All of this stuff is ok.  In fact, I will go on a limb and say it's BETTER!!  When things don't go our way, we have a powerful opportunity to show up for our kids by being present in the mess and humble.  Stuff is going to go wrong.  #LIFE.  Part of being a parent is showing your kids how to deal when life does not go the way we really wanted or needed it to go.

Need some more?

If you on in the Austin area and you want to learn more about this, I will be giving a talk at the YWCA on Monday (11.26.18).  You can register HERE.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

You know that feeling when something terrible happens to someone you know and you don’t know what do so… So you just say nothing?  Then eventually the roles are reversed and something awful happens to you.  Something that will alter your life and the way you see the world and no one seems to notice and certainly no one says anything to you.

Then it happens…

You realize the worst thing to do is say nothing.  And you wish someone would just say something.  ANYTHING.  Just so that you know that there is another person on the planet that sees what you're going through sucks/hurts/is awful.

Let's start with what NOT to say:

I feel like most of us say nothing because we are terrified of saying the wrong thing.  So let's cover that first.

A few years ago, I met a brilliant, loving, soft spoken woman who died young from cancer.  She used to laugh with me about the horrible things people would say to her when they learned that she had terminal cancer.  She used to joke that she could fill entire book with what NOT to say to a person who just told you they are dying.

Quick list:

  1. My dog had that!  And she's fine now.
  2. Eww!!  Gross!
  3. I don't care.
  4. I'm sure you'll be fine.

First, if you are anything like me, you cherish your four legged children.  That said, most humans who are hurting or sick will not find it terribly comforting to know that something when well for a different species.  It makes you seem as though you really do not get how hard it is to walk intros person's shoes.  Also, the 'and she's fine now' bit can feel really dismissive.

Second, telling someone that it's gross is just mean!

Hopefully, number three needs no further discussion but just in case... If you have nothing nice or respectful to say, then keep your trap shut.

And last but not least... "I'm sure you will be fine."  This one is probably the most well intentioned of them all and potentially the most hurtful.  When someone shares something painful or scary like, 'I have cancer,' 'my family member died,' or 'I was discriminated against'...  "I'm sure you'll be fine" is really dismissive and tells that person two things; you don't get it and you don't care.

What can you say?

ASK!!!  Ask about what that's like!  Ask what they need!  We all have a need to feel seen and understood. If you don't know what to say, ask a question.

"Can I do anything for you?"

"What do you need?"

"Can I be helpful?"

Still stuck?

Say, "I don't know what to say."  THAT is waaaayyyy better than ignoring the elephant in the room.  The person who is hurting probably doesn't' know what to say either!  And you won't leave them feeling ignoring and unimportant.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

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