How parents break bad news to pre-schoolers
Baby StepsMonday, June 14, 2021
IT is always a joy seeing the bright smiles on children's faces when you tell them good news, but there are times when you'll have to break bad news too. This can be anything from a pet dying, to something they expected to happen not coming through. Whether major or minor, when it comes to telling a pre-schooler something unpleasant, you have to prepare for a range of emotions, since they would still be at the stage where they are processing how to react to situations.
Experts in childcare warn that there are certain steps in the process, including choosing the correct time to break the news; choosing the correct person to break the news (eg one parent may be more empathetic than the other); choosing the correct place to break the news; and using simple, truthful, age-appropriate words to share the news.
At the end of the day, the child needs to be given certain reassurances by the parent, as if they do not understand what happened they may become fearful, blame themselves, or misconstrue what will happen in the future.
These parents tell how they managed such situations.
Tahisha White, mom of a six, 20 and 25-year-old:
I am not a parent who is good at giving bad news, I just give it as it is. For instance, if I promised to take her somewhere and I am unable to, I would say, “Justine [six-year-old], I am unable to go here”. When I do explain to her, she'll understand and sometimes she'll say, “You just love to break promises, you're a promise breaker”.
XH, dad of three and eight-year-old:
You just have to sit and talk with them and be as composed as possible. With my three-year-old, it is a little bit difficult because he can't necessarily understand the level or severity of some of the news, but at the same time you do not want to keep them in the dark. The best thing to do is sit them down in a sober way, and just ease them into it.
SW, mom of a five-year-old:
First I make sure our surroundings are quiet and very comfortable. I make sure she is wrapped up in my arms, then whisper something gentle in her ears. Then I break the bad news to her.
Amanda Hyatt, mom of a four and two-year-old:
When she wanted to go to school during lockdown, I sat her down and told her [four-year-old], “school is closed and you will be seeing teacher on your tablet”. She wasn't happy, but it is what it is.
RV, mom of four and eight-year-old:
She [four-year-old] is emotional, so I try to break it to her easy by offering her a snack, and she will easily understand. For instance, if we were supposed to go to the beach and we didn't and I don't want her to cry, I try to do something else — something fun to take her mind off the bad news.
SP, mom of six and 11-year-old:
I try to shelter him [six-year-old] by not telling him about anything that is bad.
Rainford Satchell, dad of a five-year-old:
I would sit her down and tell her, “I have something to say”, while holding her hands, then tell her the bad news. Based on her reaction, I would comfort her accordingly.
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