Written by Jay Reed, LCSW I recently had an encounter with a teen who asked why he was seeing “bullies” on TV every night. He clarified after seeing my confusion that he was referring to the political ads. In the past few days I had a 9 year old tell me she is scared; when I […]
I’ve spent the majority of my career working with children and teenagers. Ironically back when I was a graduate student I loudly and adamantly proclaimed I would NEVER work with kids or teens. Haha…people and their plans. I have since realized that my refusal to work with them came from being scared that I wouldn’t be able to help them or connect with them. Now I prefer working with people under 18, I especially love those I refer to as the “littles”. I have found that being honest, genuine and accepting has gotten me far when working with kids. The first prinicple I use and share with parents is “I will not lie to the child”. I have learned the only effective way in helping them is to BE HONEST. My honesty doesn’t often win me points with their parents, but kids appreciate my ability to not ‘bs’ them. I’ve also learned that kids want to be heard and included. They understand far more than we give them credit for. They know more them we expect them to and most importantly they can handle more than we want them to.
Now, I know you are thinking “where should I start”. Or you are worried you “can’t handle it”.
If your child asks you questions 👎🏻do not sugar coat 👎🏻your answer. Children sense insincerity, they may not know what feels wrong, but they know something you said or did felt disingenuous. 👍🏻Be honest, tell them what you know. 👍🏻Use age appropriate language and 👎🏻do not overload them with information. When they seem bored and disinterested, stop talking. Children often have a low tolerance for umcomfortable discussions. That doesn’t mean we don’t have them, it means we take our time and spread the information over several conversations. I once had a 5 year old ask me to “stop talking” because I was giving her a headache. 😱I missed the que she was overwhelmed and kept going, but because of our rapport she was able to tell me to back off. Good for her! 🙌🏻
One of the greatest tools a child can have when coping with difficult situations is a primary caregiver who is supportive, open and honest. Kids need us to show them the world, they need us to guide and tell them the truth. They don’t need protecting; in fact I heard recently at a training held by the National Alliance of Grieving Children that one of most damaging things we do is “overprotect children”. Take a chance on your kids, open up and see how insightful they can be!