When life presents us with challenging experiences people frequently ask, “What should I tell the children?” My answer is always, “... the truth.” However, information must be conveyed at a developmentally appropriate level. For instance, young children don’t need to hear every detail of what’s happened. That may only confuse and upset them—and likely cause them greater distress.
Tell children what they need to know, don’t share more information than they’re able to hear or understand, encourage them to articulate their feelings, and answer their questions honestly and directly. And if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay. Tell them that you don’t know.
It’s important that you don’t lie to children in an effort to protect them—even if the truth is painfully difficult. Children will only come to know the truth sooner or later. And it’s generally sooner than later. There’s no reason to add additional pain due to feelings of being misled or being lied to. Again, just be careful to share what’s appropriate for the child to hear at his or her age and level of maturity. If you’re not sure what to share, seek the help of people who work regularly with children such as pediatricians, educators, counselors or child psychologists.
Traumatic Stress Consulting at www.MarkLerner.com