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Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 160 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. Dr. Patrick is a public speaker and media commentator with over 7,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. Find her at BlackSwanVerdicts.com and watch her Media Demo Reel here.

Tags: death | tragedy

How to Break Bad News to Children About a Parent's Health

breaking bad news to children or others

(Tero Vesalainen/Dreamstime.com)

Wendy L. Patrick By Saturday, 13 April 2024 05:44 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Delicate Discussions About a Parent's Illness or Death Mandate Preparation   

Recently, Princess Catherine, affectionately known as "Kate," the Princess of Wales, publicly announced that she has cancer.

She has three young children.

As she begins chemotherapy, she reminded the world that she and her husband Prince William also have to explain to their precious loved ones, what's going on.

Her poignant message resonated globally with parents who are facing the same dilemma, how to best break bad news to young children that Mommy or Daddy is ill.

Thankfully, there are ways to soften the blow:

Knowledge Is Power:

Children know more than you think about death and tragedy.

They hear about it at school, or worse yet, watch it in real time on the smartphones of classmates, or on their own device that parents have permitted them to have to keep in touch with them.

So in preparing to discuss a classroom shooting or a cancer diagnosis, parents can begin by exploring how much their children already know about the underlying issues.

Sarah-Jane Renand et al. (2013) explored the process of talking with children about death.

Participants, which included 130 parents of children from two to seven-years old, shared the explanations they provided to their children, including perceptions of their children’s’ emotional and physical reactions.

The likelihood of having such conversations to begin with increased with the age of the child. Among other findings, Renand et al. (ibid.) noted that the most frequent types of discussions involved religion or spirituality, and that the degree of religiosity was negatively correlated with providing a biological explanation of death.

Researchers have also investigated the question of whether parents prefer to be the sole or primary source of information about death and dying, or whether children should learn about it in school.

Agustín de la Herrán Gascón et al. (2022) investigated the extent to which parents want the subject of death to be included within educational curriculum.

In their sample of 917 mothers and fathers of children and adolescents, they found moderately positive attitudes towards education including the subject of death.

The attitudes of individual parents ranged according to religious beliefs, gender, and children’s educational stage.

Overall, their study results weighed in favor of the educational incorporation of death into families and schools.

Strategies to Soften the Blow

Whether or not children are likely to learn about illness and death through other means, parents can take steps to soften the blow, especially when the topic involves their own illness and negative prognosis.

Here are a few tips:

Words Matter

Make your explanation easy to understand. When describing death or illness, avoid difficult phrases such as "passed on" or "under the weather."

Children may find it easier to process concrete terms they are more familiar with such as references to someone being "sick" or having "died."

Comfort Counts

Make sure a child is in a familiar space, such as your home living room, and has their favorite stuffed animal or a blanket with them before beginning an emotional conversation.

Prepare Yourself First

Sort out your own emotions before talking with your children, because they will filter the significance of your words through your feelings — which they can perceive more readily than you think.

Safety in Numbers

Have difficult conversations with your children in the presence of other trusted adults who will be there for them, to provide a sense of security in crisis.

Proactive preparation is powerful here also, including details of how things will change.

The bottom line is that age-appropriate discussion of difficult subjects such as death and dying can prepare children emotionally and physically and bring comfort to every member of the family.

Also remember that professional help is available.

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

The bottom line is that age-appropriate discussion of difficult subjects such as death and dying can prepare children emotionally and physically and bring comfort to every member of the family. Also remember that professional help is available.
death, tragedy
Saturday, 13 April 2024 05:44 AM
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