What this means and how the public downfall of their mother will affect her kids--and yours.
Over the last two years, we've all watched the Britney Spears saga unfold. It is admittedly fascinating--but also impossible not to wonder about the impact on her children.
In an apparent settlement, Spears has agreed that Federline be awarded sole physical and legal custody of Sean Preston and Jayden James. The agreement still has to be approved by the court, but both parties want this deal. Once Britney is stable enough for her father not to be her conservator, her visitation will increase and eventually custody could be 50/50, according to E! News.
Every time we hear a new late-breaking update, our hearts break a little bit more over the turmoil this family is in and for her two children. We called friend of momlogic Dr. Pamela Varady for her perspective on how something this traumatic impacts Britney's kids, and how to talk to your own brood about Britney.
The Impact on Britney's Kids
• Too Young to Remember: Since Britney's kids are just 1 and 2, will they be able to remember any of this in the future? "Most people think they're so young, they won't remember it, but that's just not true," explains Dr. Pamela, a clinical psychologist who has not worked with the Spears family, but is a parent educator. "For them, this will be what is scientifically called an 'implicit memory.'" With this type of memory, a previous experience will impact and influence your actions without you having any conscious awareness of the previous experience itself. "Plus, every single minute is documented in pictures and on video," she says, "and that will also make them recall this...the same way you might look at a photo of yourself at Disneyland from when you were three and be able to remember."
• Short-Term/Long-Term Impact: The short-term impact, says Dr. Varady, is that it may be very hard for them to trust any caregiver, as people have so often come and gone in their lives, she adds. "Sean and Jayden may not be able to instantly recall the things that happened to them before they were two, but those experiences will impact the way they connect with others for the rest of their lives," she explains. "They'll likely be wary of letting themselves get too close to others, and it will be hard for them to let down their guard."
• The Impact on Your Kids: You may still be reeling from conversations with your kids about how Jamie Lynn had a baby, but now it's time to figure out what to say about Britney's falling star--it's impossible to miss it. Events like these are great teachable moments, but many moms (including many of use here in the office) feel a bit awkward about broaching a topic like this with our kids. When having this kind of discussion, resist the urge to talk too much or to lecture. To really resonate, this needs to be a two-way dialogue. First, find out what your kids have already heard about the situation, and ask whether or not they have any questions. That's the perfect springboard for a deeper, more meaningful conversation. To help, we asked Dr. Pamela for some pointers on having an effective and age-appropriate discussion with your kids about Britney:
• If your child is 8 or younger: If your younger child isn't asking about this, leave the topic alone. However, we heard from a few moms today who said their grade schoolers were asking them about Britney, and they were unsure how to respond. According to Dr. Pamela, the best response for this age group is: "I think Britney is having a lot of problems--she's very sad and upset. That's why it's so important to tell mommy when you feel sad or upset, so I can help you."
• If your child is a tween: When talking to tweens, Dr. Pamela says you can delve a little deeper and mention Britney's alleged substance abuse problems. She recommends using the following script: "Britney is obviously having a lot of problems--she's depressed, stressed, and angry. That's why she started using drugs and alcohol. But I want you to come to me when you feel depressed, stressed, or angry, so you don't suffer the pain that Britney is experiencing."
• If your child is a teen: Obviously, you want to mention Britney's substance abuse and emotional issues with your teen, and make sure your teen knows that he or she can always come to you with any problem. But because so many teens these days want to be famous, Dr. Pamela says this is an ideal opportunity to discuss the downsides of fame. "Say, 'Britney is one of the most famous people in the world, but look how depressed and miserable she is. All I want is to for you to have a happy life.'" It's also a good time to establish more positive role models for our kids, says Dr. Pamela. "Not many families discuss who won the Nobel Peace Prize around the dinner table, but maybe they should. Talk with your teens about people who are doing medical research, working on philanthropic projects, or working to save the environment." This will help your teen replace role models like Britney with ones worth looking up to.
Always remind your kids that if they have questions about this or anything else, they can always come to you and you will try to answer as best you can. The ultimate goal is that they will understand the door is always open, and they can talk to you about anything and everything. If Britney can help us get that point across, so be it.