Talking about sad or serious family events can be difficult no matter what age your child is, but 7- and 8-year-olds bring enormous curiosity and skepticism to bear on problems and want to understand major events. At age 5, your child may have simply accepted your explanations, but at 7 or 8 he may question them, have more specific things he wants to know, and want to discuss difficult topics in more depth.
Talking It Out
When events such as a loss of a job, a foreclosure, or a death are imminent, it’s a good idea to sit down and let your 7- or 8-year-old know it’s coming. Because kids at this age are so proud of being big and so invested in managing the larger world, it would be a mistake to try to protect them from such important family developments. They will pick up the anxiety and whispers and make it much larger in their minds. Better to give them the facts simply, straightforwardly, and share how you, the parent, are going to try to solve the problem. Try these suggestions for a smoother conversation:
- Sketch out the reality and how you feel about it: "Your father’s company is having trouble. This is hard news for us, and we’re feeling sad and worried about it."
- Let your child ask questions. Answer them simply, always emphasizing that the problem has not affected the basic facts of the family: We’re all together and we love each other.
- Monitor your child’s response. If she seems to be having trouble coping, open the conversation again, asking, "Are you worried about your dad’s job?"
Be prepared for your child’s resilience to shine through. She may say something incredibly comforting to you or offer to open a lemonade stand to help the family. Children rise to the occasion when difficult things happen, if you give them the chance.