Q: Due to a financial constraint we recently had to inform our seven-year-old daughter that we will be changing her school, a move that has saddened her. We told her the cause for it, and she has been sharing this with everyone. Should I not have told her the reason?
The question of not only what to tell her, but how and when to tell her is a thorny one. So, you might say, ‘We’re really sorry, but we need to move your school and the reasons are xyz.’ This might appear to be an obvious and very honest step. However, to a child this logical adult reasoning might not be received as you intended. The message has probably been processed on an emotional level and this has led to her feelings of confusion and sadness.
When discussing big changes with children it’s important to tell them how much you understand their feelings and concerns. It is also important to underline that although some things may be changing, everyone in the family is making significant changes and sacrifices and not just her, thus reinforcing that the family is united in adversity. The key to dealing with any big change is to focus on the benefits. The strong family love and bonds, the values you live by, the fun things you’re going to be doing in the near future.
You ask if it’s fine to discuss family issues? I say yes, it is fine, but with an enormous and vital caveat. That being, does anyone get hurt or compromised by this information? If the answer is yes, then think very carefully about your actions. I am all for children being involved and contributing to family life, however, they are children and children don’t make decisions – that’s the role of the parent.
Allowing your own issues and worries to become burdens for your children is something to be avoided if possible. However, we all have to live in the real world, and sometimes our problems bleed into the lives of those who are dearest to us. It is no use crying over spilt milk; you have told her about your financial issues and as a seven-year-old she doesn’t yet have the capacity to understand how sensitive that information is. I think it would be wise to gently talk to her on the general idea of what is appropriate to share publicly and what isn’t. Moreover, now is the time to really focus on the positives, demonstrate the family is strong and that she is loved and supported.
Moving to a new school will be an exciting adventure for her. In my experience children are remarkably resilient, particularly when their home-life is a stable environment. Change, at any age, is never easy, so she will inevitably need time to adjust. Accept this and support her in this period of sadness; it will pass, and she will forget the past and move on, gaining new friends and experiences in the process.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.