After the tragic events on Friday in Paris, a number of children have experience anxiety and worries. As a life coach for kids, I feel the need to teach parents techniques of talking to children. The article below is a compilation of advice based on research and my professional experience from life coaching for children.
Keep the main goal in mind
When talking to children, the objective is to help your child deal with their emotions constructively, help the child overcome anxieties or tension from the bad news, and allow them to continue enjoying their day to day (and night—as that is when most worries will surface) as much as possible.
Is talking to children about the tragedy relevant?
Not every kid will react the same to these events. Some children might be significantly affected while the kid seating next to him might cope with the information just fine. I see this regularly during kids coaching sessions. Be observant of any changes of conversation or behaviours. Over-reactions or tears appearing easily. Be aware that this doesn’t depend so much on the age of the child. From 4 years on they might be taking in information. However, I personally think the group most likely to be affected is 8-15 years old.
The media is full of coverage about the terrorist attacks. I never advocate to hide things from children. However, a measured approach is very sensible. The pictures, comments, videos etc can be very overpowering for an adult let alone for a child. As a professional life coach for kids, I want you to be aware of what movies or TV programmes they watch, what games they play (specially video games).
Be ready to talk about it
If your children haven’t learnt about the events, they most likely will learn from school friends or other sources. If this is a concern for him/her ensure you are ready to talk. By talking to children about it on your own time you are giving yourself the best chance to lead and manage the conversation constructively. The last thing we want is to be asked this important questions unprepared. Parent coaching on this topic mostly dwell on how to get them ready to talk.
Give yourself time to talk
When talking to children about the events, ensure you have plenty of time to do so. Don’t rush it or you will miss their emotions and it might only exacerbate the worries. Although I am a professional life coach for kids and a dad, I still take my time.
Be aware of your emotions
We take most of the information from the body language and tone of voice. Words account for around 5-10% of the message. Therefore, be aware of your body language, your tone and your general state of calmness when talking to children. The child, most likely, will mirror your state, whatever it is. However, it is important to show your emotions as well, this will give them permission to show theirs. When in a life coaching for children session, I try to make myself vulnerable. This makes the children to show their fears and vulnerability too.
Be open and honest but choose your words carefully
Explain to them in very simple language what happened. The more detail we provide the stronger the image will be in their heads, thus, making the emotions stronger. I personally favour describing the facts in a reasonably generic and impersonal/detached way. This will help the children put some emotional distance with the events. I also conduct parent coaching classes. In my parenting classes, I teach parents how to handle these situations.
Be Patient, it might take time to assimilate it
It’s possible the children may become tearful. If they do, it is a good sign that they are letting their emotions out. It is most likely that the tears are caused by fear than the events themselves. Help them voice them out. Also, be aware that they are most likely to surface at night. If this happens, just be patient. They are not doing in it on purpose, they are not enjoying it. As a life coach for kids expert, I assure you that if they knew how to control their emotions they would. Most times, tearing is from feeling of helplessness.
Help them move on
Kids coaching is very important for them. Let them know that people are looking after them. The police, the government, they are all working to avoid this from happening. Ensure they understand how rare these events are.
Adapt their environment over the next few days
Reduce or eliminate exposure to news in a way you can better control the message. Try to watch uplifting movies and play constructive games. Ensure a positive routine at home especially before bed time. Read with them and give time to talk about some happy memories or future plans.
Finally, always use your commons sense. You are the person who best know your child. Therefore, use your commons sense to adapt these or other advice you receive.
Please contact me if you need any advice on this topic. I am happy to help in any way I can.
Further reading. These are some articles that I have come across which make total sense to me. I highly recommend you read them if this topic affects you or your children: