Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
Singing REO Speedwagon in the shower will never be the same.
Every time we hear the 80s rockers’ classic ballad Can’t Fight This Feeling, or Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, we think of the Glee version. The hugely popular TV show has captured a generation of music lovers, whether or not you call yourself a “Gleek.”
Even the Acting Vancouver Police Chief who announced Glee star Cory Monteith’s death by overdose earlier this month noted that he watches the show with his daughters every week. It’s a shared family experience for millions of households across North America – and now those families have a tragedy to process together.
We invite TV actors and their characters into our homes and into our lives, and these connections are especially intense for our kids. Add in the complicated issues of drug abuse and addiction, and you have a challenging conversation between parents and their children.
Open and honest communication is a key part of parenting, but how much is too much? Is this a “teachable moment” to embrace, or a time for quiet empathy and support?
This week’s question: What do we say to our kids about the tragic death of a popular celebrity?
Jennifer Kolari, author of Surviving the Teenage Years with Connected Parenting
“Keep in mind that this is very real for your kids. Parents may have a tendency to minimize and say things like, ‘It’s just a TV character,’ but remember to let your kids feel what they feel. It’s important to talk to them – don’t overreact but also don’t minimize. Be the parent they want to talk to.”
Jennine Rawana, associate professor of psychology, York University
“Help your kids refocus their discussions about this event (disbelief, why this happened) to reflecting on your own ideas and values around substance use and what strengths you have as a family to deal with life’s challenges (trusting, supportive, strong relationships). You can also model healthy coping strategies (seeking support, managing stress) and nurture these strategies in your children.”
John Hoffman, veteran parenting columnist
“Parents need not always create teachable moments out of tragic events. The potential harm would be increasing the amount of time the child spends thinking about scary, disturbing things than is healthy. I’d focus on the child, not the event, and keep the conversation as short as possible, helping your child to move on to focus on positive, more immediate things in his or her own life.”
Catherine Pearlman, founder of The Family Coach
“Explain that drugs make people lose focus of their goals and in this case, even kill a 31-year old in the prime of his career. Discuss how and why kids start using drugs, and above all else tell them that no matter what happens at school or at a party, they can always come to their parents to discuss. Parents must not punish or ground children, but help them learn to manage peer pressure openly.”
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