Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a clinical psychologist whose research has focused on trauma/ PTSD, and how children understand race. She was director of Children’s Hospital Oakland’s Center for the Vulnerable Child and is now an adjunct professor at the Wright Institute, and a consultant to nonprofit organizations seeking to become trauma-informed and culturally accountable.
How to Talk to Children About Scary Things
On April 28th, Allison Briscoe-Smith, PhD, offered a wonderful workshop to Step One parents on “How to Talk to Children About Scary Things.” Here are some communication tips on how to approach difficult conversations with honesty and caring.
- Create a family mission statement. This allows you to refer difficult questions back to your family’s core values.
- Listen to what kids are really saying, not what we’re afraid they are saying. The question might be simpler than you think! Pause to understand what your child is asking.
- Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. You can say, “I don’t know,” or ask your child “I wonder what you think?”
- Accept that you and your child can handle being open about difficult feelings. Children are resilient!
Techniques to try:
- Accept that you may not be in perfect control during a hard conversation. If you cry, it’s OK to say “I have big feelings about this. I have big feelings but I’ll be OK.”
- Emphasize resilience: always connect to a piece of hope. You might tell a child, “This is difficult, but we’re together and we’re OK right now.”
- Kids worry about connections, love, and care. These factors are at the core of many of their worries. Emphasize “I will always love you.”
Allison Briscoe Smith’s website: http://www.drbriscoesmith.com/
The Invisible Thread, Patrice Karst – Children’s book about the continuity of love. Can be used for conversations about loss.
Creating a Family Mission Statement:
Allison recommends Sesame Street’s exceptional resources for helping families talk about death: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/topics/grief