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How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragic Events

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In the wake of last week’s horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, this article on how to talk to your kids about a tragic event in the news is brought to you by CHOC Children’s

When tragic events happen in the news it is sometimes hard to know how to handle conversations about it with our children. How much information should we give? How do we answer specific questions? How does this vary with a child’s age?

Which is why I was so grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nicole Vincent, PhD, a licensed psychologist at CHOC Children’s to get her advice to share with you today. 

 5 Key Things to Remember When Talking to Your Kids About a Tragic Event in the News

My very first question I had for her was,

“Is it better to bring up the event with your child at home first OR wait and see if they hear something from a friend or at school before discussing it?” 

1. Be Mindful of the Child’s Age

Dr. Vincent expressed how we talk to our kids about tragic events in the news will vary depending on the age of the child.

For preschoolers through about 1st grade, the chance a child would be exposed to information in the news is not as likely as it is for older children. So for young ones, a parent might consider not bringing up the event unless the child specifically asks about something they heard.  

For older elementary schoolers she suggested it might be a good idea to touch base with your child’s teacher or administrators to ask if the event has been brought up in class or if it is being talked about? Depending on the answer, this might cue you in to whether you might want to address it with your child at home. 

As kids become middle and high school age, it is very likely, especially with technology and social media exposure, to hear about tragic events and get information outside of the home. For these ages, Dr. Vincent said it is usually a good idea to take a proactive approach and start the conversation at home so you can discuss the facts and give them the opportunity to ask questions. 

Which led to my next question, how do you approach the topic about a tragic news event with your kids?

2. Consider Starting the Conversation With These Questions

The best way to start the conversation is to ask your child open-ended questions like “Have you talked about events in the news?” If yes,What have you heard about it? Tell me what you know.” 

The answers will help guide the conversation as to how much information to share.

For younger age groups, it is best to keep your responses honest and factual, but brief. Details are not totally necessary and often times these responses will be enough to satisfy their curiosity.

For older age groups, she advised to let your child take the lead with information they heard or questions they might ask. It is important to validate their concerns by letting them know they are asking great questions. It’s okay to not always have the answers, you can tell them as much, and empathize with also wanting to also know.  Being there to listen to your child is the most important. 

But regardless of age, she stressed you know your child the best and to pay attention to behavior and cues that might indicate they heard something or have questions. Even young children can pick up on information or overhear things that might surprise you.

Bottom line, take the above age suggestions as general guidelines. But again, you know your child the best.

For me personally, I was surprised my 8-year-old daughter had many more questions and wanted to talk about Las Vegas much more than my 11-year-old daughter. It also elicited more fear in her than her sister. For kids who seem to be experiencing an increase in fear as a result, I asked for suggestions on how to help.

3. Reinforce the Rarity of the Event

Tragic events often trigger fear and anxiety in people of all ages, and for children tragic events can be especially scary

Dr. Vincent suggested this could be a time to highlight the fact that a shooting like the one that occurred in Las Vegas is a rare event. And when rare tragic events happen there are many people that will work together to try to avoid it from happening in the future.

4. Teach Kids to Look for the Helpers

In times like this, I often see people quoting Mister Rodgers when he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Dr. Vincent mentioned it is very helpful to highlight for your children the people that step up to help in crisis.  Teach them to look at the first responders, volunteers, or strangers helping strangers. These people show us the beauty of humanity in a crisis. 

For some kids, she suggested even possibly talking about what you can do to help as a family. Even a small act like choosing a Go Fund Me account to donate to, writing a letter to a first responder, or looking up supplies to donate can help by showing there are always things people can do to help. 

5. Keep Home Life as Normal as Possible 

One last parting piece of advice was to keep your routine at home as normal as possible.  When a child’s day to day routine is altered for whatever reason, it can cause additional anxiety to build. 

On this note, Dr. Vincent also stressed how important it is to allow yourself the time to process the events. Whether it’s talking to your partner, friends or therapist, it is important to be mindful of your own self-care so you are in the right state of mind to discuss it with your child. 

When To Seek Help

After a tragic event, it is not uncommon to experience a variety of emotions or symptoms like mood changes, difficulty with sleep, or increased headaches or stomachaches. If any of these changes persist in you or your child for more than a couple weeks, and if the symptoms are disrupting daily life, it might be a good idea to pursue help by a mental health professional. 

Get more tips from CHOC experts

For more information about CHOC Children’s and their mental health services visit www.choc.org/services/mental-health

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I’m Turning it Purple This Month

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Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

Before my mom’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis I had not given this disease much thought at all.  The only thing I knew was that it was bad.  I remember seeing Patrick Swayze on a news program during his battle with pancreatic cancer, and I knew he died of this disease.

Now I know more than I ever wished to know about this ugly disease.  I won’t go into the statistics, but I can tell you that in 40 years no significant progress has been made in the realm of pancreatic cancer.  In the year 2015, I think that is unacceptable. Organizations like Pancan.org think that is unacceptable too and are working to raise funds for research, government funding and advocacy, patient support and community awareness. Change is happening, but so much more needs to be done.

Significant funding is the only way advancements can be made to find ways to detect it earlier (majority of cases are diagnosed after it has already spread), more research is needed to find more options to treat it, and funding is needed to raise awareness.

Make a Difference | Wage Hope 

Sometimes it takes knowing someone personally to motivate you to want to do something to help.  I hope after all of these years of blogging, that you feel like you know me, at least a little bit.  My mom is not a statistic.  She is a beautiful, vibrant, 68-year-old wife, mom and grandma that deserves more.  The other people affected by pancreatic cancer deserve more.

How You Can Help:

Doing something is easy and doesn’t take much time.  Here are some things you can do to help me shine the light on pancreatic cancer this November during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

1. If you are in Orange County, sign up to walk or run a 5K with us on Team Julie on November 14th, 2015 at 10am in Irvine for PurpleStride to raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  Bring your family.  It will be a morning of hope and inspiration. Click here then click Join Team top right to join us!!

2. Make a small donation to my -> personal fundraising page. Any amount counts!!

3. Share this post on social media to raise awareness.

4. Write a post on the – >Today Show Facebook page urging them to dedicate #justoneday to pancreatic cancer in honor of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

WPCD15_1.1.2-copy-816x600 5. Wear purple on November 13th, 2015, World Pancreatic Cancer Day and share a photo of your purple power on social media using #WPCD.

6. Like the World Pancreatic Cancer Day on Facebook Join the Thunderclap virtual event on November 13th to spread awareness about the disease. Visit the Facebook page to learn more.

Thank you so much for reading this post and for listening to me talk about a cause that is deeply personal to me.

Change is on the way, but people need to start talking about it.  And, as a reminder, always listen to your body. If you have a new symptom or something going on that just doesn’t “feel right” – go to your doctor.  Wishing you all health and happiness.

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Psst! Do You Need to Attend this Free Workshop?

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 [Sponsor]

I interrupt your busy day to bring you a very important message from Darlynn Morgan of Morgan Law Group on how to name legal guardians for your kids:

If you have kids under the age of 18 and you have not legally documented who you want to care for them should something happen to you and/or your spouse, I invite you to join me for one of two free workshops next week where I’ll show you how to get your “ducks in a row” for FREE.

ATTEND EITHER WORKSHOP!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 9:30-11:30
Faith Lutheran Church
8200 Ellis Ave, Huntington Beach, CA  92646

October 14, 2015  10:30am
SW Irvine MOMS Club
Plaza Park
610 Paseo Westpark, Irvine, CA 92606

This is a GREAT opportunity to also learn how to make solid financial decisions for the future and put a fortress of protection around your family should the unthinkable happen.

You will also discover how to:

-> Choose the Right Guardians for Your Kids and Avoid Making the Six Common Mistakes

-> Get Your Financial House in Order and Keep it that Way

– > Confirm You Are Making Smart Financial Choices About Things like Saving for College, Keeping You Money Safe and Buying Life insurance

– > Learn the Secret to Protecting Your Kid’s Inheritance From Lawsuits and Divorce

– > Discover How to Leave Your Loved Ones a Gift Far Greater Than All the Money in the World

– > Discover How to Legally Avoid All Estate Taxes & Keep Your Family Out of Court

Bring your friends and family! This is information that EVERY parent or grandparent should know! Hope to see you there!

No advance registration required – just show up! If you have any questions or need more information, call 949 260 1400.

Darlynn

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What We Can Learn from the Maddy Middleton Tragedy

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Last month 8-year-old girl Maddy Middleton was abducted, raped and murdered in her Santa Cruz apartment complex. The perpetrator was not a stranger and this was not a random abduction.  The killer was a 15-year-old boy who lived in her building who lured her to his apartment. Her tragic story shook me to the core. As a parent, I can’t even fathom the pain.

I wanted to share this insightful article posted on the Facebook page of Orange County clinical psychologist, Dr. Jerry Weichman, on how to talk to our kids when stories like this are covered in the media along with other important reminders about how to keep your child safe.  The “Staying Put” lesson is so important. His article was so enlightening to me I asked if I could share in this post. Please comment below with any comments or questions.

Keeping Your Child Safe – Tips & Insight || by Dr. Jerry Weichman

maddy middleton I have fielded some requests this week from parents asking how to discuss with younger kids tragic events that end up getting a lot of media coverage. Specifically last month the tragic abduction and death of 8 year old Maddy Middleton in Santa Cruz was one that struck a chord with many parents.

First, I think we need to be mindful of where the balance is in this discussion with our kids to ensure that they’re safe but also not to create an anxiety-ridden child or teenager with agoraphobia.

I would go so far as to say that I would not recommend bringing the incident up with your children nor sharing the details unless your child actually asks you about it.

If your child does bring up an event that they have heard about, parents need to consider the child’s maturity level, emotional capacity, and need to listen to your child’s specific questions before giving information.

Oftentimes, parents volunteer more details than a child is actually seeking. In the end, kids usually are seeking simple facts and reassurance that they are safe.

However, if these stories serve more as a wake-up call to parents about talking with their kids about safety in general, here are my tips:

Staying Put

Regardless of whether or not your child could potentially be lured by someone they know, such as was the case with Maddy, or by a complete stranger, the first issue at hand is a child leaving the location when they were supposed to be staying put. This is what you need to be focusing on and continually reiterating to your kids. Bottom line, the message needs to be, “You do not ever leave where you are supposed to be without talking with Mom/Dad first and asking for my permission to do so.”

Stranger Danger

Your kids are naturally going to be much more wary of a stranger because most parents talk about stranger danger but it is the people whom they do know who are the “sleepers.” That’s to say, the predators who that pose the biggest problems to our kids are the familiar faces because they seem trustworthy simply because your child knows them. This is why parents need to also discuss behaviors such as people they know (adults and kids) asking your child to keep a secret.

How to Discuss The Rules

The conversation about not departing the area where they should be without first asking parental permission should be short in duration (30 seconds max) but repeated at least every other week with them to help convert it to long-term memory. Now, just because your child has heard this rule over and over know this doesn’t mean that when it actually happens they’ll remember. I recommend once you’ve had multiple conversations with your child about this putting them to the actual test to see if they truly do get it. Call a neighbor or friend and have them come to your child (whether in front of the house, at a park, etc) and ask them if they want to come over right now to do something your kid really likes to do. Don’t admonish or “bust” your child if they make the wrong decision with this test. You don’t want your kid to feel tricked by you. Instead just know you have your answer about how truly safe your kid is with regards to staying put versus going somewhere without permission. Simply make a bigger point of discussing the rules with them.

Trust Your Gut

Lastly always trust your parental intuition, especially you moms out there. I’ve never seen a mother’s intuition be wrong in 17 years of working with teens and parents. Listen to your gut, to that feeling and to that thought in your head. If you experience an odd feeling about any individual, have a side conversation with your child that being alone around that individual or being in their home is off limits. If they ask why, just tell them that there’s adult information that you can’t share with them and your job as a parent is to keep them “out of trouble.” Do not tell your kid that the individual is “bad” or that your job as a parent is to keep them “safe.” These are trigger words and you run the risk of your child (depending on the age of your kid) telling the other person’s child that their home isn’t safe and now you have a different issue to deal with in your community.

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Not Scary Movies for Kids

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Not Scary Movies for Kids 

20 Not Scary Movies for Kids

(Links in post are Amazon Affiliate Links)

Last week I went out to dinner with five of my class of ’92 high school girlfriends I hadn’t seen in years.  Old photos were passed around and we laughed our you know whats off at the styles back then. I think the shoes were the most offensive – does anyone remember Reebok high tops with big scrunch socks?!  How on earth was that ever considered cute? Wow.

We had four hours to catch up and many parenting topics arose, which gives me endless parenting blog fodder. I love it.

This post was inspired when a friend mentioned her kids are so sensitive to “scary” stuff, that she has been forced over the years to find not scary movies for kids her family could watch together.

Of course, what scares a kid can differ from child to child, so these movies listed below are not necessarily scare-proof. However, a great way to check out the details on a movie before you watch it with your kids is www.commonsensemedia.org. The age recommendations for the movies below were taken from that site.

You simply plug in the movie and you can get the full rundown of the story line and ratings on things such as educational value, positive messaging, violence & scariness, and more.

Please add any not scary movies for kids you have discovered in the comments. Would love to keep this list going!

20 Not Scary Movies for Kids 

1. Winnie the Pooh Movies (ages 3+)

2. The Aristocats (ages 4+)

3. Tinker Bell (ages 4+)

4. Sesame Street: Follow That Bird (ages 4+)

5. My Neighbor Totoro (ages 5+)

6. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (ages 5+)

7. The Sword in the Stone (ages 5+)

8. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (ages 5+)

9. Kiki’s Delivery Service (ages 5+)

10. Homeward Bound (ages 6+)

My friend’s recommendations (geared towards older children):

11. Mary Poppins (ages 6 +)

12. The Sound of Music (ages 6 +)

13. Shirley Temple movies (Curly Top, The Little Princess, Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm were her favorites – ages 6+)

14. The Parent Trap (original version – ages 6+)

15. Charlotte’s Web (1973 older cartoon version – ages 5 +)

16. Doctor Doolittle (original version – ages 5+)

17. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (ages 6+)

18. Oklahoma (ages 8 +)

19. Singin’ in the Rain (ages 6+)

20. American Girl Movies (average age 6+ but check each movie individually for age rec)

Please add to this list in the comments with your “not scary movies for kids” recommendations…

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