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'Kids, Daddy Was in a Plane Crash': Page 2

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Continued from 'Kids, Daddy Was in a Plane Crash,' Page 1

"Wait to bring your children to see the injured person until the bandages or breathing tubes are removed. Hospitals are scary places for children," Fox continues.

While it's fine to delay the news, it's not okay to put off telling kids forever, says parenting expert and psychotherapist Jill SpivackLCSW. "It's tempting for well-meaning parents and relatives to avoid telling their children for fear they will experience too much emotional pain. Yet children are very good at picking up on the 'elephant in the room' and when something is happening, they can easily sense increased stress and anxiety in the people they rely on. When kids are exposed to Mommy feeling sad and visitors stopping by with concern in their voices, they want and need to understand what's going on."

Here are a few tips on telling your children the bad news ... and dealing it with yourself:
1. Tell the kids the news in terms they'll understand. Spivack says preschoolers should receive only the necessary information -- simple explanations without a lot of detail are fine, and Shanna should only talk about what is currently happening (not what may happen in the future, unless asked by the child). "For instance, Shanna could say, 'Daddy was in a very bad accident. When his plane crashed, his body got a very, very bad burn from a fire outside of the plane. Daddy is in the hospital now with the doctors and they are trying to make him better.'" It's important to talk to them in the morning or mid-day rather than before bed when it will be difficult for them to sit alone with their worries.  
2.  Give them time to work through their feelings. "Tell their teachers what has happened and expect acting out or isolation," Fox advises. 

3. Let them know it's not their fault. "Young children are very egocentric and often imagine that their negative behavior may have caused something bad to happen," Spivack says. "In this case, it's important to let the children know that the accident was from faulty equipment in the plane, so they don't try to make sense of it by blaming themselves."  
4. Be on the lookout for red flags. "If the child becomes preoccupied with death, suicide, has recurrent nightmares, has continued difficulties eating or sleeping, or is acting out in dangerous ways," Fox says, "seek professional help"

5. Seek support for yourself, too. "As far as Shanna's grief is concerned, it's important for her to have enough emotional and logistical support going through this ordeal so she can be there for her children," Spivack says. "Her reaching out to friends, doctors, teachers or therapists is critical so she can support herself as she supports her kids. If people offer to help her, she should let them in."

6. Encourage your kids to do something for Daddy. "Children express their feelings through play and art, so make pictures, videos, or poems," Fox recommends. "Don't restrict their expression -- let them draw pictures of the accident." Spivack says this will also help kids feel some sense of control. "Drawing pictures for Daddy or making get well cards is really empowering for kids in an out-of-control situation."

Have you ever had to break this sort of news to your child? Share your experience below.

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