Bad things happen — it's an unfortunate fact of life. Try as we might to shelter our kids from bad news, sometimes it hits closer to home than we would like. And often times we parents are too overloaded with grief, sadness and anxiety to think about looking into our kids' innocent eyes and giving them the bad news.
But experts say the best thing we can do is to be straight with our kids as soon as possible. Whether it's a divorce, the death of a grandparent, an illness in the family, or the loss of a job, kids can sense when something is wrong, and the sooner they can identify the source of the family anxiety, the sooner they can begin to understand and cope.
Another tip — get rid of distractions when you do break the news. Turn the TV and cellphones off and give your child your undivided attention while you say what you need to say. She's sure to have lots of questions. If possible, give her as many details as you think appropriate about how the situation will progress (funeral arrangements, doctor's prognosis, job search plans) so that she can understand how the next few days, weeks or months will play out.
And most importantly, be sure to check in with your child a few hours and a few days later after the news has sunk in. She may have more concerns or questions about the issue, but she may be afraid to bring it up and upset you. Make sure she knows that the door is always open when she needs you — because she will need you. Together you can hopefully pull through the tragedy and move forward.