Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Okay to Say, "I Don't Know"

Many of us have a personal connection in some way to the participants of the Boston Marathon. There has been and will continue to be significant news coverage and our children are likely to hear information that is troubling for them and difficult to process. When unthinkable things happen we can sometimes find it difficult to think clearly about how to respond in a way that is helpful for our children. It is possible you may be fielding questions from your children and hosting conversations you are a little unsure how to handle. Keep in mind that children will tell you with their questions how much and what they need to know. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know,” in response to a question a child may ask you.

The following Web site might be of help to you as you begin to think about talking with your child:

Here are some additional tips:
  • Before answering, it is a good idea to ask your child what she already knows about the topic in question. 
  • Be honest with your answers, but choose your words and explanations according to the child's understanding, and don't overload the child with too much information. 
  • Try to give answers that give hope and faith and are reassuring, but again, don't lie or give false hope or unrealistic promises. 
  • Be ready to answer the same question repeatedly. As has been found in several studies, even if parents do talk to children about difficult topics, children might later not remember it. So you need to have these discussions often. For a child, repeating a question might also be a form of getting reassurance. 
  • You don’t have to have all the answers. Its okay to say, ‘I don’t know,’ but I will let you know as soon as I understand it better. The most important thing is that your children can feel you care about them. 
Keep the lines of communication open. Do a lot of listening and reassuring. And look for ways to help your children cope. John King, Bridget Gwinnett and I are available if you observe any unusual behavior that may indicate your child may need additional support.

Michelle Bostian, Lower School Counselor