Families Together in Tough Times

Silhouette of Person Sitting Beside Body of Water


Tragedy keeps striking again and again and we need to pull together for ourselves today and the future for our children. The events in Las Vegas following repeated hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions may shake us deeply, but we must not let them shatter us.

The first step is self care for the adults in the family. Before you talk to your children, find a way to calm yourself, at least a little bit. Connect with your resources, inner strength and spirituality as well as outer connections. You might pause just to visualize a calm safe place until your body begins to self-regulate. Take some deep breaths. Get out in nature, or at least look out the window or at some nature pictures. Take a walk. Say a short prayer. Sometimes the short version of the Serenity Prayer can be helpful: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Sometimes all you can manage is a simple: “Help!”

When your head is clearer, be sure you have accurate basic information and weed out the graphic or fake news.  Keep the TV viewing to a minimum, ideally recording what you will watch so you can control what you present, especially  for any children under 12. Then go ahead and initiate a conversation with your children.  Better to be the one to bring it up than to wait for other less caring sources to prevail. Your children, if they are 4 or older, may have already heard something and not know what to say or do with the confusing feelings. Keep it short, simple and straightforward. Ask if they have questions. Just answer the question asked.

You may share your feelings if you can do so without drama that will alarm them. Encourage your children to express their feelings in words if they can, but action and art may be easier. They can scribble, squash play-doh, beat a pillow, scream or cuddle in a soft blanket depending on what they need. If they are able to talk, don’t interrupt or disagree. Repeat back, reflecting or paraphrasing what you think you heard them say. Hold them or let them go as they need, not by your need. They may just want to be quiet and rock with you.  Ask what helps them calm down; don’t assume that what helps you will be the same for them. Expect a range of emotions to change over the days but keep an eye out for lasting changes in sleeping, toileting, eating or acting out patterns. Keep your schedule as normal as possible, but also plan to pause being sure to eat together or get out to a park if you can.

Free stock photo of road, landscape, fashion, person

If you’re reading this during a lull between crises, plan ahead now by checking out a resource to review what is age appropriate for your children. One source to consult could be “Talking to Children About Tragedies” by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now, back to the adults: We need each other in times like this. Introverts may need to heal in quiet solitude, then return to provide comfort to others. Extroverts may need to process verbally, thinking out loud while others mostly listen. Some people will curl up and cry; others may clean everything in sight. We may differ about causes and cures. We’ll need patience with each other. Remember, in spite of differences, we’re better together.

baby, blur, cat



Finding Beauty/ Speaking Good Truth


As the bee pollinates and produces food and more plants, so we can nourish our children’s souls and bring beauty to their lives and the world. Good delivered consistently begets good. Yet I’m beginning to hear increasing concern about praising children. The often repeated phrase “Good job!” or participation awards regardless of the quality or consistency of participation may indeed become empty and contribute to problems more than strengths. Professors are pointing to research which finds that if we reward children for being kind or generous, they will stop caring for the inherent intangible rewards of helping others and become more mercenary, serving only when it serves their own purposes to earn a badge, go out for pizza or get accepted to a better college.

What I hear though is not a problem with praise, but a longing for authenticity and integrity. We don’t want shallow, meaningless words. We do want heartfelt appreciation. But surely we don’t need to wait for grand moments. Hopefully we can find beauty often in daily moments. I believe it is important for us to notice when our children do something we value and give voice to the positive observations we make. It’s unfair to ignore the good and only criticize; that is hardly likely to encourage the values we hold dear. If no one notices when children make their bed, pick up their toys, or put the backpack somewhere that it won’t be tripped over, why bother? If we cherish our time in the kitchen preparing a meal together or in the driveway playing ball, let’s say so.  If we see when our child shares or stands up for someone vulnerable, they deserve to hear that we noticed and share their values.

The key to praise or simple acknowledgement that nourishes a child’s soul is authenticity. Praise that encourages is specific, noting what the child did well and why we care. Here are some samples: “Thanks for telling me what you want. I noticed how you were able to calm yourself. You have waited patiently and I appreciate that.”  Our tone of voice, smile or touch should be sincere, not fake or distracted. In this way we reduce anxiety and decrease depression. We strengthen attachment and deepen relationships.

It helps if praise comes often enough that our children believe we generally notice their good points and that those qualities come in a variety of areas worth noticing. Praise should not be so rare as to be shocking.   If perhaps we’ve been more critical than kind, our children may perceive us as prickly but beauty can blossom in the relationship.


We can bring light into darkness.

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Finding our way with hope!