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How to Talk to Children About Death

By on January 4, 2018 in Family

Children learn many things every day, some of them wonderous and enlightening, others worrisome and quite scary. Death can be difficult to accept for an adult; children may not even be able to grasp it. If they learn about death the wrong way, this can lead to confusion and possibly lingering problems, such as anxiety and/or depression.

If your child does not understand what it means to die, and you think they are now old enough, here are some ways that you can discuss it:

Ask Questions

Before you start your talk, find out what your child knows about death. That will provide you with both a clear starting point and areas that need to be included.

Reassure Them

Your children already have a bond with you, but this is a good time to reassure them that it is safe to display their feelings. Listen, be patient, and try to answer any questions in ways that you think they will understand. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest: don’t simply make something up. Make sure they realize that there is always someone there to answer their questions and help them to understand.

Language

You understand your child better than anyone and are aware of what they can comprehend. Thus, use language that is appropriate for their level. While you don’t want to overwhelm a child, the more they can understand that is concrete, the less they will try to fill in any blanks with their imagination. Kids have a tremendous capacity to imagine things (remember your own childhood), so it is possible they can come up with explanations that will simply cause confusion and stress.

For the very young children in your life, the excerpt from SESAME STREET below shows how Big Bird first learns about death. It is quite well done and recommended viewing:

How to Deal With Disappointed Children at Christmas

By on December 4, 2017 in Family

Some children look forward to Christmas with a fervor that goes beyond pretty much everything else in their lives. But can you really blame them? Think back to what Christmas meant to you at that age. We’ll bet that you had a certain toy in mind, and stayed up as long as you could to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus delivering it.

Alas, it was not to be. The cool thing you wanted (and was sure could be found in that big box under the Christmas tree) turned out to be something practical that was no fun at all. That no doubt left you sad and maybe even a little mad. How could this happen? Why couldn’t I just get the thing I wanted, like all of the other kids?!

Years later, you can see how irrational and immature that sounded, but kids don’t understand views like that, especially in the moment.

We want the best for our kids, but sometimes it is not possible (or desirable) to get them what they ask for. So, how do you talk to the child you know you will disappoint this Christmas because you didn’t buy the iPhone X they wanted?

Be Careful About Expectations

If your child expresses a longing for something you either can’t or don’t want to buy, don’t lead them on by saying things like, “Maybe if you’re good.” If a gift is not a possibility, let them know in advance.

Be Mindful of Their Feelings

Remember how you felt in their shoes. It seems trivial and silly to you as an adult, but this type of let down is a big deal for them. Once the furor has died down, try to impart to your child that you can’t have everything in life and it is good to know how to deal with disappointment.

Kids Have Short Memories

It may be tears and complaints now, but let’s face it: kids have short memories. They will eventually start thinking of other things (and other potential gifts) and everyone will be able to move on.

How to Tell Your Child That There is No Santa Claus

By on November 29, 2017 in Family

What child doesn’t love Christmas? And what child doesn’t love Santa Claus, the loveable old guy in red with the bottomless sack filled with endless gifts? However, as happens to every child (usually between the ages of 5-7), there will come that day when they ask whether Santa is actually real. This can be both an awkward and an important time in a child’s development that some adults struggle with. Some even tell their children early on that there is no Santa, so they won’t have to lie to them later on.

If your son or daughter has come to you asking about whether Santa, and you are not sure what to say, consider the following approach. It was posted on Facebook by Charity Hutchinson and offers a gentle, effective way to handle the issue.

In essence, Hutchinson says to tell kids that Santa Claus is something that we ourselves become. It is all about growing up, being considerate of other people’s feelings, and demonstrating that empathy by engaging in positive actions.

When the time comes, let the child know that you think they are ready. After citing several occasions during the year where the child has done kind things for others, talk to them about who else could benefit from their new Santa generosity. Emphasize that these acts of kindness are done in secret with no intention of someone doing the same for you—just as Santa did for them all these years.

This is a wonderful way to do it because you are encouraging kids to pass along the joy of giving without expectation. That is an important lesson which can help kids along the road to maturity at a time when they feel the world revolves solely around them. It also saves parents from having to lie, something that can be quite painful.

As for timing, there is nothing wrong with waiting until after Christmas. However, in the end, you child will decide, not you.

Helping Your Children Manage Stress at School

By on November 15, 2017 in health

 

Do you remember your school days as a child? Some immediately flashback to events that greatly enhanced their confidence, such as a track and field victory or doing especially well on an exam in a tough subject.

Others have less rosy memories. School can be intensely stressful for children and some are better able to handle this pressure than others. Most teachers will alert parents when they feel a child might be struggling, but it is important to regularly check in with your kids and find out how well they are coping.

If your child is having difficulty with stress at school, here are some suggestions that might help:

Sleep

It is imperative for children to get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sufficient rest affects everything from mood to basic concentration. From ages 6 through 17, the recommended minimum is 8-10 hours per evening.

Technology Embargo

Scientists are still studying what represents a healthy amount of screen time for children per day. This can be especially tough for parents to police, particularly if children have their own cellphones. Basic rule: if your child’s screen use is compromising their ability to study and do homework, then you need to crack down. This can often produce high emotion on both sides, but it is a necessary step.

Practice Relaxation

Adults can find meditation difficult to master, so it may be too much for a young child. However, there are alternative strategies, such as taking deep breaths, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.

Music

Your kids no doubt love the top pop artists of the day, but it is also good to get them interested in music that is calmer and slower paced. Try playing some during meals or other family times.

Spending Time Together

The older children get, the less they want to spend time with their parents. But do your best to cultivate an open atmosphere where your child feels comfortable talking to you in detail about what is happening at school. That means also doing your part by listening attentively and offering suggestions and follow-up.

Does the PG-13 Rating Really Work?

By on June 15, 2017 in Family

Prior to the late ’60s, there was no movie ratings system in America. Films that adhered to the content restrictions of the time received an Approved seal and were sent out into the marketplace for anyone to view. However, changing times and the arrival of foreign films that more readily addressed adult themes demonstrated that it was time for a change. The ratings G, M, and X were introduced, which were soon modified to G, GP, R, and X (GP eventually became the more widely recognized PG).

These classifications were deemed sufficient until the summer movie season of 1984 when parental outcry arose over the level of violence in the PG-rated INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and GREMLINS. Many felt that both films were R-level in content and not suitable for children to see unaccompanied. This resulted in the creation of PG-13, which fell between PG and R. Anyone could still see a PG-13 feature, but parents were warned that some material could be inappropriate for children under 13.

Nowadays, the majority of movies carry the PG-13 classification as it allows filmmakers to present a certain degree of violence, coarse language, and sexual content without limiting their possible audience. It makes commercial sense, but the PG-13 movies of 20-30 years ago bear little resemblance to ones bearing the rating now. Directors routinely take movies right up to the line without crossing over into R territory, which can mean the material is really top end PG-13 and would have received the more restrictive rating only a few years ago.

What can parents do? If you are concerned about the content of some PG-13 features, there are websites such as Kids-In-Mind that break down the levels of violence, language, and sex in each feature. It can be difficult to keep track of what your kids are seeing or hearing, particularly online, but it is worth exercising some degree of control until they are in their later teens and better able to process the often graphic content of films.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is one of several recent movies that have pushed the PG-13 rating to its breaking point. Image courtesy Warner Brothers.

How To Help Someone With Dementia

By on December 28, 2016 in health

With dementia on the rise, it is very uncommon to hear of anyone who doesn’t know someone afflicted.

Image via pexels

It is a group of diseases that none of us wants to get to know, but many of us will. Whether it’s a family member or ourselves, dementia will touch us. The most common of the dementias being Alzheimer’s, most people have some idea of what this illness is.

My mother passed away after a decade-long illness with dementia. There was nothing easy about this experience for any of us, most especially her. She knew something was happening to her brain and it terrified her. What she needed at that time and in all the years since, was care and compassion and to be assured that she would be comfortable, safe and loved.

When it became clear that she would be best cared for in a long-term care facility, my father moved her in along with her familiar, most-favoured belongings. We got through each step in the process together and with the help of the care home community. And again, while there was nothing easy about this, what made it better was the support of my mother’s caregivers. Friendly smiles, connection, acknowledgement of this trauma in our family.

Over the years, some of my mother’s closest friendships disappeared. Friends were unsure what was causing her mood changes and they didn’t know how to ask. It still hurts to think about, but I also realize the enormity of telling a friend you’ve noticed worrying changes and want to know how to help.

If you know of someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, here are some ways you can help them:

  • Stay in touch: A brief, regular visit will help your friend or family member feel loved and comfortable. Even if they are no longer speaking, they are still seeing and feeling. Show them familiar photos or tell stories about favourite memories.
  • Music: Almost everyone loves to listen to music. For the person in your life who is affected by dementia, sing, play music, and, if their care home provides it, take them to a musical performance. If their care home doesn’t already have a music program, why not suggest one?
  • Reach out: The family will be going through many emotions over the course of their loved one’s diagnosis and illness. Reach out to them. A quick phone call or a cup of coffee will keep them encouraged and feeling remembered.

The best way you can help someone afflicted with dementia, is by reaching out. No matter how you choose to do it, let them know you care.

 

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