How to Talk to Your Child About….

How to Talk to Your Child About….

In life, there are many tough situations that we face that require us to have difficult conversations. This page is dedicated to various topics that can help you when speaking to your child.  

Death and dying is a tough time for all of us. Below are some ways that may help if your child has lost a friend.

Use the SADD NEWS acronym

  • Setting: Prepare to talk to your child by doing some physical things that will allow you to be calm. Find a place that is quiet and neutral, not a bedroom. Pick a time that is quiet and not rushed. Turn off the TV. Pick a time when you won’t be rushing out the door or going right to bed. All of this allows you to be at your best and your child to have time to ask questions while you are together. If the news only impacts one child, make arrangements for the others to be out of the room or, if possible, out of the house to allow your child your full attention.
  • Actual and Factual: Keep you explanation short and honest. Misleading or lying to a child leads to confusion later when he may over hear others talking. Talking too much can confuse children.  “I have to talk to you about something very sad. Your friend died last night “.If your child is under 4, explain further: “This means that she is gone forever and not going to come back.”
  • Decompress and Decide: Give the child time to think while sitting quietly next to you. Respond to any questions or statements with short answers. Decide what to say based on if the information meets the goal of making your child feel safe and clarifies misunderstandings.
  • Encourage your child to talk about her thoughts and feelings if she says nothing after a few minutes. Let her know it is ok to feel sad and  to ask questions: “This makes me very sad. How do you feel? What questions do you have?”
  • Limit the amount of information you give.

When discussing more, remember:

  1.  Need to know only: talking about how much blood was in a room, or the fact that someone lost an arm in the accident are not important and can frighten the child.
  2. Explain what happened in simple termsHe died in a car accident. The fact it occurred at rush hour on Hwy 40, is not important. Keep it brief to allow child to process the information.
  3. Wait for additional questions. Encourage your child to talk about questions and feelings as time passes.  If your child doesn’t ask right away how her friend died, it is ok to wait a day or two and then discuss more.
  4. Support: Depending on the situation, you may also be dealing with difficult emotions.  Seek out support via friends, family, your physician or credible resources so you can emotionally equipped to support your child.

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The stages of mourning and grief are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life. Mourning occurs in response to an individual’s own terminal illness, the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human or animal. There are five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.

In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief.

The death of your loved one might inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality. Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.

Many people do not experience the stages in the order listed below, which is okay. The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process — it helps you understand and put into context where you are.

All, keep in mind — all people grieve differently. Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeve and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try and not judge how a person experiences their grief, as each person will experience it differently.

1. Denial and Isolation

The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger

As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.

Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it.

The doctor who diagnosed the illness and was unable to cure the disease might become a convenient target. Health professionals deal with death and dying every day. That does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to those who grieve for them.

Do not hesitate to ask your doctor to give you extra time or to explain just once more the details of your loved one’s illness. Arrange a special appointment or ask that he telephone you at the end of his day. Ask for clear answers to your questions regarding medical diagnosis and treatment. Understand the options available to you. Take your time.

3. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–

  • If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
  • If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
  • If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…

Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression

Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words.

The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

Do you suffer from complicated grief?
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5. Acceptance

Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Loved ones that are terminally ill or aging appear to go through a final period of withdrawal. This is by no means a suggestion that they are aware of their own impending death or such, only that physical decline may be sufficient to produce a similar response. Their behavior implies that it is natural to reach a stage at which social interaction is limited. The dignity and grace shown by our dying loved ones may well be their last gift to us.

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.


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It’s been around for over a decade, but vaping’s popularity exploded in 2017, taking many families, schools and healthcare providers by surprise. Vaping, or Juuling (named after a popular vape device called JUUL), is the inhalaing and exhaling of an aerosol produced using a vape device.

Nearly one in three high school seniors tried vaping in the past year.1 With advertising geared toward teens and young adults, devices designed to attract attention and thousands of flavors to choose from, the expectation is that growth will continue.

For every story touting the benefits of vaping, there is an equal number raising concerns about its risks. The information here and in the accompanying vaping guide is meant to help you understand vaping, its appeal to youth and what research has to say about the known and unknown risks.

What is Vaping?

Vape devices, known as e-cigse-hookahsmodsvape pensvapestank systems and Juuls, contain four basic components: a cartridge or tank to hold e-liquid (or e-juice/vape sauce), a heating element known as an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece to inhale. A sensor detects when a person is trying to inhale. This triggers the battery to supply electricity to the atomizer. The heat given off vaporizes the e-liquid. The resulting vapor is what is inhaled.

What do vape devices look like?

Some vape devices mimic cigarettes, cigars or pipes while others resemble USB sticks and other everyday objects like a guitar pick. Larger devices like tank systems, or “mods,” look more like a small cell phone. Some devices are disposable while others can be recharged and refilled.

What is being vaped?

Many substances can be vaped, but the most common are variations of flavored e-liquids which come in small bottles or pre-filled pods or cartridges.

  • Flavored e-liquids come in thousands of flavors ranging from cotton candy and grape to king crab legs and hot dog.
  • Flavored e-liquids with differing levels of nicotine. One of the more popular devices, Juul, contains 59 mg/ml of nicotine in each pod, the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.
  • Flavored e-liquids with marijuana. Marijuana can be vaped in a variety of forms including its dried leaves or using THC and/or CBD oil (THC is the psychoactive compound that creates a sense of being high). (See below for more on vaping and marijuana)

Why is vaping so popular?

Vaping was intended to be a less harmful option for adult smokers, but enticing flavors combined with the power of social media to set off trends like “cloud competitions” (think smoke rings and other exhaling tricks) have made it attractive to many teens and young adults.

For more facts on vaping, download our complete guide >>

Is Vaping Safe?

The short answer is no, vaping is not considered safe for teens and young adults, especially since their brains are still in a period of active development.

Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon so long-term studies of its impact on young adult health and behavior have yet to be conducted. The most comprehensive research to date is a report commissioned by Congress from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Released in January 2018, the report looked at exposure to nicotine and other toxic substances, dependence, harm reduction, smoking risks, cancer and more. Below are some key findings:

  • Exposure to nicotine is worrisome in teens and young adults because nicotine can be highly addictive. Due to the fact that the brain is undergoing massive changes during the teen years, nicotine use may rewire the brain, making it easier to get hooked on other substances and contribute to problems with concentration, learning and impulse control.
  • Most vape devices release a number of potentially toxic substances, although exposure is considerably lower than those found in regular cigarettes.
  • Dependence develops when the body adapts to repeated exposure to vaping. When a person stops vaping, he or she can experience withdrawal symptoms, although likely not as intense as with conventional cigarettes.
  • Vaping may be increasing risks of smoking. Teens and young adults who vape are almost four times as likely as their non-vaping peers to begin smoking cigarettes.
  • Injuries and poisonings have resulted from devices exploding and direct exposure to e-liquids.
  • Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the risks of cancer and respiratory illness, though there is some concern that vaping can cause coughing and wheezing and may exacerbate asthma.

Marijuana and Vaping

Devices and accessories designed for vaping marijuana are a booming business. Any marijuana use, whether vaped or otherwise, is a concern for adolescents and young adults. According to the CDC, marijuana use may have long-lasting permanent effects on developing adolescent brains. Negative effects include:

  • Difficulty with critical thinking skills like attention, problem-solving and memory
  • Impaired reaction time and coordination, especially as it relates to driving
  • Declines in school performance
  • Increased risk of mental health issues including depression or anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis where there is a family history

What Can Parents Do to Prevent Vaping?

  • Presence of vaping equipment or related product packaging
  • Unusual online purchases or packages
  • The scent is faint, but you may catch a whiff of flavoring like bubble gum or chocolate cake
  • Increased thirst or nose bleeds
  • Decreased caffeine use
  • Use of vaping lingo in text messages or on social media
  • Appearance and/or behavior changes

Be equipped with facts. Download the vaping guide for parents and read it over. Remain familiar with vape devices, what’s being vaped and the risks associates.

Have conversations. Opportunities to discuss vaping can present themselves in many ways: letters from the school, advertisements, seeing it on TV, walking by someone vaping or passing a vape shop. Be ready to listen rather than lecture. Try using an open-ended question like “What do you think about vaping?” to get the conversation going.

Convey your expectations. Express your understanding of the risks along with why you don’t want your child vaping. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through while reinforcing healthier choices.

Be a good role model. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured.

What to Say When Your Teen Asks

Q: Isn’t vaping safer than smoking cigarettes?

Exposure to toxic substances may be reduced, but there are still significant concerns when replacing smoking cigarettes with vaping. One’s lungs are exposed to fine particles, metals, other toxins and nicotine which are all harmful. You may use the example that “Driving 90 miles an hour with a seat belt on is safer than without one, but neither is safe.” The same goes for vaping. And as with all substance use, ask your child why they’re interested in vaping in the first place.

Q: Everyone is doing it, why do you care?
You can say, “I know you might think this because of what you see in school or on social media, but the fact is that the majority of teens are choosing not to vape. It might be popular among some kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

Q: You smoke, so why shouldn’t I?
If you’ve tried to quit, respond by saying something like, “You’re right, smoking is unhealthy and I’ve tried to quit and wish I had never started. I don’t want you to start an unhealthy habit and struggle the way I have.”

Aricle from the website: Partner for Drug-Free Kids

9 tips for parents navigating online learning with their children due to Coronavirus



As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to get more serious across the US, Americans are seeing closures of everything from offices to restaurants and bars, and even to even education systems. Schools across the country have gone remote, and while students attending college might be used to online learning, how is a Kindergartener to deal with logging in to their online classroom each morning?

School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week. Some states have closed schools into May, while some, like New Mexico, Vermont, and four others, have closed the schools for the remainder of the academic year.


Of course, the burden of educating students falls first on teachers to create online classrooms, lessons, and activities. But to complete those activities, parental guidance will be necessary. With the White House extending social distancing guidelines through the end of April, it’s clear parents will continue to be at home with their children for an extended amount of time. While this is a stressful time, it’s important to plan and not panic.

“This is a stressful, unpredictable time for everyone, including families, parents, and children,” said  Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra, the founder, and president of Children and Screens. “You can help your children by providing them with a structure and routine, and being a positive force in their education.”

Here is advice for navigating this new frontier of online education with your children.

9 tips for parents whose children are now learning at home because of Coronavirus

    1. Limit distraction
      A “digital quarantine” might be necessary to keep your child’s attention focused on their schoolwork. You should limit their use of their devices, other than what is needed to complete their work, until their schoolwork is done. If you choose, you can allow your child to play on a device during a designated break, but make them aware that they only have a limited amount of time until they need to get back to work.
    1. Make space for learning
      Many adults have a specific area of the home in which they do work, and it’s important that you create a similar space for your child. Your children will achieve their best work in a quiet, comfortable, and dedicated space that is strictly devoted to learning. This space should be a different set-up than where they normally play games or watch television. 
    2. Maintain breaks such as snack time and recess
      Routines and schedules are extremely important for children at school, and this is no different in their at-home school. Children will function best if they maintain their routine as close to normal as possible. Setting alarms similar to those they would encounter at school can be helpful for keeping them on a schedule. Around lunch time, encourage them to get up, get some fresh air, go for a walk or bike ride, or have a snack so that they are not sedentary for the entire day.
    1. Allow them to interact with friends via video chats
      Your children are used to lots of social contact at school, so they will definitely feel the effects of being distanced from them even after a few days. While it might not be safe for your kids to see their friends in person, you should allow them to interact with them online, beyond social media or text messaging. Video chats are often the closest thing to seeing someone in person, and are a great way to get in social time without endangering yourself or others. If your child does  not regularly video chat with their friends, you can speak with other parents to set up a video chat playdate.
    2. Mix screen time with old school learning mediums
      Overuse of screen time can have adverse impacts on young brains, so it’s important to mix it up during a time like this. It’s likely that your children will want to continue to use a screen of some sort during their breaks from doing work, so it’s important to limit screen time by mixing in old school mediums as well. Hopefully teachers have sent home hard copy packets that they are able to work from. If not, print out anything you can for your child. As much as possible, parents should encourage print and book reading and, if possible, request textbooks from your child’s school.
    1. Keep in touch with other parents
      Social distancing is important during this time, but staying in touch with others via virtual communication is very important. Each parent that has a child home is going to be going through a new experience. Check in with other parents to see what they’ve found effective, and ask if they need help as well.
    2. Don’t underestimate the power of a schedule
      If you and your children are all doing work from your home, it’s likely that this is the first time that has ever happened. A schedule, for your work and your child’s work, is extremely important. To start, experts recommend keeping them on the same or similar sleeping schedule that they have when they are going into school. If a schedule was not provided by their teachers, help them write one for not only each day, but each week, as well. Having a clear vision of what is expected of your child will help them see that just because they are home does not mean they don’t have work to do. Experts recommend helping them prioritize and learn to create goals, tasks, and deadlines, just like adults do when they go to work.
  1.  Don’t let your children treat this as a vacation
    This time at home might feel like a vacation for your child, but it’s important to remind them that their education still comes first. Obligations like class assignments, grades, tests, state exams, SATs, and ACTs aren’t going away just because classes have moved online.
  2. Remember to schedule time for fun
    While this is most certainly not a vacation, it’s important to have some fun with your children while they are at home. It’s rare that you have this much time with your children, so use it as an opportunity to bond. Experts at Children and Screens recommend organizing a tournament, family card games, charades, or chess, or getting outside for a hike or walk together.