How to Explain Death to a Child

One of the hardest realities to explain to a child is death. Especially when it is the death of a parent, sibling, beloved grandparent, close friend or even a favorite pet.  As a parent, you try to protect your child from things that might harm them or from things that are too difficult to understand for their age but unfortunately sometimes this is not possible.  When you are faced with the reality that you need to have a conversation with your child about death, keep the following ideas in mind.

Don’t lie.  Whatever you do say, make sure that you are completely honest with your child.  Telling them that a person went to sleep for a long time does not help them and can confuse them later when they do find out the truth.  Don’t say anything that would cause your relationship with your child to be in jeopardy later because of a lie, even if it is just a little white lie.

Keep it simple.  Long winded explanations may make you feel better but a child will only hear the first couple of sentences.  Remember the teacher on Charlie Brown and how the kids just tuned her out?  You don’t want your child to turn you out during a difficult conversation so be clear and simple when you start.

Answer only the question they ask.  As a parent, you may be tempted to reinterpret your child’s question or answer more than they ask.  Resist the urge and instead repeat the question they ask for clarity by saying, “You want to know…” followed by their question.  If they say yes, then answer it simply; if they say no than ask them to ask a different question.

Don’t expect an emotional response.  Children need more time than adults to process what has happened because this is a new experience for them.  So if your child seems unemotional at first, don’t worry, just give them time to process what has happened.  Your child may also have inappropriate emotional responses such as laughing instead of crying; allow them the freedom to respond as they know how.  They may be laughing because that is the only way they know of releasing the stress and tension they feel.

Explain as often as requested.  You may find that your child comes back to you several hours or days later with the exact same set of questions they asked at first.  They are doing this to process what has happened and refusing to answer a question because you have already answered it is not helpful.  Rather, be consistent with your responses and answer the same question in the same manner.  Again resist the temptation to over explain, they are not asking the same question because they need more clarity, they are just trying to understand.

Invite them to ask more questions in the future.  As your child ages and has more experience to draw from, they may have additional harder questions later.  While they may have seemed like they are processing the grief well shortly after the death, problems may surface several years later as they learn more about life.  Look out for disruptive behavior at school, defiant behavior at home, or destructive behavior with friends as warning signs that your child may have more grief to process.

Get help not only for your child but for you as well.  Grief of close family members can take well over a year to process for adults.  For children, they seem to postpone aspects of their grief for later and sometimes it is not fully processed until they are adults.  As a parent, you need to get help so that you can better help your child first by example and next by experience.  Your child will be far more likely to ask for help in a productive rather than destructive manner if they have witnessed you asking for help.  The idea of being strong for your child and not getting help may be counterproductive for your child who may feel weak compared to you.

It is a tough to have a conversation with your child about death.  Before you begin, think about the right words to say then review the above suggestions rehearsing answers to some of the anticipated questions.  But if your child is resistant to the conversation, don’t force it on your time-table but rather be patient and sensitive to their time-table.  This will go a long way in strengthening your relationship with your child.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Value of a Working Mom

Sometimes meaningful parental moments come in the middle of another conversation. It usually has nothing to do with the topic at hand and is uncharacteristically transparent.  Looking back, you wish there was a bright shining light demanding your attention so you could savor every second.

I had such a moment with my fourteen year old son just this past week.  The filter in his ADHD brain telling him not to comment on certain things is underdeveloped even for his age while his critical thinking skills far exceed.  This combination makes for very interesting and frequently frustrating conversations. Since he loves to talk, there is no shortage of either.  This week he shocked me with, “I’m glad that you are a working mom.” Suprised, I asked for further clarification because he often complains how difficult his life is. Here are his responses.

“You don’t schedule your life around me.”  Talk about a shocking statement coming from a boy who frequently complains of having no ride to the activity of the week!  He explained that his friend’s mom chooses to rearrange her schedule to meet her son’s wants and desires. As a result, his friend has a skewed view that life is all about him. My son was astonished that his friends got whatever they wanted with no regard for how it impacted the rest of the family.  By setting the standard that life is not about my son, he has learned to be less selfish.

“You work hard.”  It is both frightening and encouraging to understand that children learn more from what is done rather than what is said.  My son recounted a conversation he overheard from two mothers who were commenting on how difficult it must be to work and go to school at the same time.  Having experienced this first hand with his mother, he was shocked to discover that not every mother did this.  He then explained that by demonstrating what can be accomplished he had the motivation to work hard as well.  By setting an example of hard work (it is important to note it is the example that is significant, not the words), he has learned self motivation.

“You and Dad don’t waste time.”  By far this was the most confusing statement from my son especially since he seems to have little regard for his own time management.  He then admitted to spending quite a bit of time listening in on adult conversations and made this observation.  When time is a rare commodity, there is less gossip (his words) and more engaging discussions.  Apparently, the conversations he overhears between his parents are deeper and more meaningful because there is less time to talk.  By placing value on quality time and conversation, he has learned not to gossip.

Probably the hardest part of knowing that my son has learned these valuable lessons is understanding that he will frequently forget these lessons and become selfish, unmotivated and a gossip.  However by continuing to set standards, living by example and placing value on the important things of life, the lessons can be continually reinforced making a positive difference in his life.  As an added bonus, these lessons in turn encouraged me to keep going and greatly reduced the guilt often felt as a working mom.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Struggling with Parenting? Direct Parents are Motivating

SONY DSCWhen your child comes home with a bad grade on a test, you sit them down immediately and try to help them set new goals for improving their grade.  You explain about the importance of setting long-term goals and how their current behavior is not consistent with what they want out of life.  You never miss an opportunity to encourage and motivate your child to become what you already know they are capable of becoming.  But there is no doubt during the moments of disappointment and stress that your child’s wishes and opinions are second to yours.  After all, you are the parent and they are the child.

You are a Direct Parent.  As a direct parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “What”.  What are you doing?  What are you trying to accomplish? What is your point?  You are goal-oriented, focused, and motivating but you can easily overpower your child to the point of bullying and therefore miss an opportunity for tenderness, compassion, and mercy.  If your child is like you, there will be numerous arguments in a constant struggle for control.

The Good.  You are very good at helping your child set realistic goals, modifying those goals to address new circumstances and motivating your child to keep going when the going gets tough.  Your child will always have some sort of direction, even if you have to decide it for your child because no direction is failure and failure is not acceptable.  There are rules in your home and your child knows them, is reminded of them and has consistent consequences if they are violated.

The Bad.  You can overpower your child to the point of bullying.  Your desire to help your child is genuine but to your child you sometimes come across as harsh, uncaring, and unsympathetic.  This is justified in your mind as proper training for the real world that your child will one day face however you don’t fully listen to your child so your training may actually be misguided.  Listening requires time, understanding, and patience as information that is forced out of a child can cause them not to trust you in the future.

The Ugly.  Playground bullies are a pain but they are nothing in comparison to the parent who is a bully.  Yes, your child is a child and they need guidance but the guidance does not have to be pushy, demanding, or belittling.  A child who is bullied by a parent, usually acts out and bullies younger or weaker kids.  As an adult, they will bully subordinates or co-workers.  In the end, no one likes a bully.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, direct parents are motivating so be motivating and minimize the bullying.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Related Articles:

Struggling with Parenting?  Begin with You

Struggling with Parenting? Active Parents are Fun

Struggling with Parenting? Bookkeeper Parents are Fair

Struggling with Parenting?  Cautious Parents are Aware

 

Struggling with Parenting? Cautious Parents are Aware

Overprotective-Parents“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  This is one of your favorite quotes and your child already knows it by heart.  You are a careful planner in every activity with many detailed lists in order by priority and usually color coded for easy reference.   This is responsible behavior and irresponsible behavior is not having a plan because danger lurks behind every corner and you might be unprepared.   It is important that you set the proper example for your child in behavior, thought, and control of your emotions so you are very careful about what you say, how you say it and explaining why you do what you do.

You are a Cautious Parent.  As a cautious parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Why”.  Why did you do that?  Why didn’t you finish that?  Why aren’t you doing it this way?  Cautious parents are detail oriented, analytical, and perfectionists but when pushed they can become irrationally moody and over explain.  If your child is like you, they will ask a ton of “why” questions and be thrilled that you take the time to respond.

The Good.  There is reason and logic behind every decision and you are more than willing to explain how you came to the conclusions that you did.  You love to share your knowledge of the world in detail and could go on and on about one topic for hours.  Your child enjoys having their own personal “Encyclopedia” who is very resourceful and can cut research time down to a matter of minutes.  Unfortunately, most schools don’t accept “Dad” or “Mom” on the works cited page.

The Bad.  You have a desire to share your wisdom with your child but too much information at the wrong time can do more damage than good.  Over explaining things does not equip your child to reason through things for themselves and frequently your child will be lacking in critical thinking skills as they have learned to just trust your judgment rather than figure it out for themselves.

The Ugly.  As an adult, if your child is still relying on your wisdom to guide their life, they will continue to flounder at nearly every job they do.  Still looking for someone to spell out every detail so they don’t have to think for themselves and risk making a mistake, your child will find comfort in menial employment instead of living up their full potential.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, cautious parents are aware so be aware and minimize the over explaining.

 

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Related Articles:

Struggling with Parenting?  Begin with You

Struggling with Parenting? Active Parents are Fun

Struggling with Parenting? Bookkeeper Parents are Fair

Struggling with Parenting?  Direct Parents are Motivating

Struggling with Parenting? Active Parents are Fun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving kids is a blast.  There are so many places to show them, so many things to explore, so many things to do and so little time.  It seems as if your calendar is always full and it probably is with birthday parties, trips to the zoo, new playgrounds, play dates with friends, soccer practices and just going to stores.  At home there are plenty of toys, games, crafts, and most likely an entire room devoted to the kids where they can play for endless hours.  You like all of the activity and encourage your kid to try new things constantly.

You are an Active parent.  As an active parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Who”.  Who else is going? Who are your friends?  Who do you want to be?  You are interested in the people in your kid’s world and usually use your kid’s interaction with others as an indication of how well-adjusted they are.  If your child is like-minded, this conversation is easy but if not your child shuts down and can’t seem to figure out why this matters so much to you.

The Good.  Your kids will not be bored.  If anything, they will be exhausted at times and crave some down time to just sit on the sofa and watch TV.  You most likely encourage them to participate in a wide variety of activities and are not easily upset when your child changes their mind to a completely different sport.  After all, you probably did the same thing as a child.  Regardless of your financial status, your child will have many adventurous stories to tell, have a lot of physical activity, and numerous types of friends.

The Bad.  Exhaustion from excessive activities and lack of proper sleep are two of the biggest down sides to active parenting.  There will be times when the excessive activities on your calendar are too much for you and your child to manage so someone is likely to get disappointed or hurt when you can’t deliver on a promise.  Your promises have a long shelf life with your child and as they get older, they will remember and remind you of all broken promises.

The Ugly.  Too much activity does not allow time for recollection, rest, and relaxation so your child may grow up struggling with finding a balance between activity and inactivity.  The numerous friendships that you encouraged your child to have and maintain may also be overwhelming for them causing them to run in the opposite direction away from friendships.  Finally, your lack of following through on promises is an unhealthy model for your child who may also grow up making and breaking promises.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, active parents are fun so be fun and minimize the number of broken promises.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Related Articles:

Struggling with Parenting?  Begin with You

Struggling with Parenting? Bookkeeper Parents are Fair

Struggling with Parenting?  Cautious Parents are Aware

Struggling with Parenting?  Direct Parents are Motivating

Struggling with Parenting? Begin with You

sad-black-woman-378x329Parenting is hard work.  At times it can be overwhelming, lonely, exhausting, discouraging, exciting, joyful, rewarding, encouraging, and fun within just a few short minutes.  The wide range of emotions  you feel from excitement over watching your child finally ride a bike without training wheels to paralyzing fear as they ride that bike straight into an on-coming car is enough to drive you into some unhealthy potato-chip-eating-addiction.  Yet despite the stress, you couldn’t imagine your life without your kids and you try hard to be the very best parent.

So you read lots of parenting books, talk to friends, and listen to experts on how to be a better parent.  But how much time have you invested in understanding your natural parenting style?  Yes, how you were raised has a lot to do with how you parent both good and bad, but you are also born with a personality style that is directly comparable to your parenting style.  When you understand your personality and parenting style (and perhaps more importantly, your spouse’s style), you will naturally be a better parent.

Active.  It is easy to tell if you are an active parent just by looking at your family calendar.  Is it full of too many things to do with not enough time?  Do you find that when you have some down time as a family, you want to go and do something rather than just sit at home?  As an active parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Who”.  Who else is going? Who are your friends?  Who do you want to be?  Active parents have a lot of energy, are exciting to be around, and adventurous but they usually over commit or don’t follow through with promises.

Bookkeeper.  Imagine an invisible ledger which details all of the gifts, grades, thank-you notes, kind acts, punishments, harsh words, phone calls, and hugs for each child.  Now imagine trying to keep that ledger in balance so that one child is not favored over another, so gifts are equally divided, and punishment is equally distributed.  This is the bookkeeper parent who can do such a task in their head.  As a bookkeeper parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “How”.  How are you going to do that?  How do you feel?  How did you get that done?  Bookkeeper parents are very fair, diplomatic, and loyal but can easily get their feelings hurt in the process of parenting.

Cautious.  Danger lurks behind every corner which is precisely why a cautious parent is so careful about what they say, do or act because you would never want to be irresponsible about anything in front of your child.  Setting a proper example for your child in behavior, thought, and control of emotions is important to you.  As a cautious parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Why”.  Why did you do that?  Why didn’t you finish that?  Why aren’t you doing it this way?  Cautious parents are detail oriented, analytical, and perfectionists but when pushed they can become irrationally moody and over explain.

Direct.  There is no beating around the bush with a direct parent; whatever they are thinking will be stated in a short period of time and not always at the most opportune moments.  There is no question as to who is in charge if you are a direct parent, you are and your child knows it.  As a direct parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “What”.  What are you doing?  What are you trying to accomplish? What is your point?  Direct parents are goal oriented, focused, and motivating but they can easily overpower a child and miss an opportunity for tenderness.

Knowing your style of parenting compared to your spouse’s style might just be the life-saver you need in preparation for your next parenting argument.  All of these styles have good, bad and ugly elements as one style is not better than another.  Rather, a child does well when all styles are represented and a more balanced approached to parenting is taken.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Related Articles:

Struggling with Parenting? Active Parents are Fun

Struggling with Parenting? Bookkeeper Parents are Fair

Struggling with Parenting?  Cautious Parents are Aware

Struggling with Parenting?  Direct Parents are Motivating

Are You Making Your Kid Angry?

Technically, no one can “make” you angry unless you give them that right.  While it may seem as though the actions of another person are “making you angry”, in actuality it is your set of experiences, emotions, beliefs, and ideals that cause you to get angry.  For instance, one person may become angry at being cut off while driving while another person may not even notice the action.  The difference between the two people is one person took the action as a personal offense while the other person did not.  The person cutting you off did not “make” you angry; rather you became angry because of how you perceived their action.

So while another person can’t “make” you angry, you can “make” your kid angry.  Why the double standard?  Because your kid is a child and you are an adult.  With maturity comes the ability to temper or control your responses which is the idea of having “self-control”.  But for a child, they have not reached this level of maturity and are unable to demonstrate self-control so they display immature behavior which is characterized by a lack of control over their responses.  Literally, you can “make” a kid feel a certain way because they are not fully in control of their responses.  Therefore, as the adult, you are responsible for “making” your kid angry.  Ephesians 6:4a warns, “Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.”  But just how are you “making” them angry?

Not listening.  Easily hands down the number one complaint kids have about their parents is that they don’t listen to what they are saying.  Too often as a parent, you are trying to get your point across and don’t stop long enough to make sure you understand your child’s point of view.  Then, because they are a child, often they really don’t know what they are really thinking or how they are feeling, so they default to anger.  No, they are not able to speak clearly, they are a child.  No, they are not able to counteract you point by point, they are a child.  But give them some time and soon as teenagers they will become more and more like you, not listening and counteracting you point by point.

Assuming the worst.  Just to make things more complicated, kids don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say.  While this is a nice lesson to teach them, assuming the worst motive or attitude about your child sends a subtle message that they are not valued or their opinion is not valued.  This brings on anger in your child just as you get angry when someone assumes the worst about you.  When you assume the worst about your child, they interprets this as “I am no good”, “I can never do anything right”, or “I am to blame for everything”.  The negative consequences of a child learning this at a young age is that it will not leave them as an adult.  For the rest of their lives, they will struggle with a positive self-image which you helped to foster.

Seeing yourself in them.  When you see your child behaving and speaking just like you while making all the same mistakes you made, there is almost an immediate angry response on your part.  It seems to come out of nowhere, one moment you are able to speak calmly and the next you are flying off the handle.  There is no rhyme or reason except that you were triggered by a past event or mistake and watching your child suffer through the same mistakes you made is more than you can handle.  The problem is that your child doesn’t understand your anger and they instead internalize it.  They become angry with themselves for “making” you angry.  In the moment, you child is not likely to respond badly but give them a couple of years and the resentment will build and turn to intense anger.

Ok, so you have made a few mistakes or more likely, made more than a few mistakes in “making” your child angry but it is not too late.  You can stop “making” them angry by simply doing the opposite of what “made” them angry.  You could listen to what they are really saying, you could assume the best about your child, and you could divorce your behavior from your child’s behavior.  After all, they have their own journey to make based on their own decisions and it is not necessarily the same journey you have made in life.  The decisions they will need to make in the future are made best when not heavily influenced by anger from their parents.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.