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Helping Your Hurting Child

Children are growing up in one of the most challenging times in history. Today’s fast-paced world is competitive, tumultuous and violent. With reports of school shootings, cyber bulling, terrorism, and racial violence, kids are looking to their parents for answers. Dr. Kevin Leman’s new book gives parent the tools they need to help their children through those challenges. He explains, “This book walks you through real-life issues, your child’s fears and hurts, and natural coping mechanisms for stress and grief…. Helping you and your child can get through these difficult experiences intact.” In his book, Dr. Leman groups these real-life issues as “out there” and “in there” issues. “Out there” issues refer to what is going on in the world, online and in the media, etc. “In there” issues are the struggles kids deal with personally like family, self, and peers. Divorce is an “in there” issue. Dr. Leman says the best ways to help your kids through this tragic turn of events is to: Be the adult—don’t bring your personal squabbles into your conversation with your kids; don’t hammer your kids with questions—don’t become a private investigator making them your spy; make as few changes as possible for your kids during this time; and don’t bounce kids around like a rubber ball. “You are the adults. Your kids are kids. Each of you should act in your respective roles,” adds Leman.

When your child sees bad things happening on TV, it is your responsibility as a parent to figure out how to relate to them based on their age. For example, if your 8-year-old sees footage of a school shooting and gets scared, he may ask, “Dad what if that happened at my school? What should I do? Would I die? Dr. Leman says we should play the role of balancer and comforter, replying, “Sometimes bad things like that happen. But that kind of thing doesn’t happen here, it was 2,000 miles away. It would take us four days of driving from morning to night to get there.” With younger kids, parents need to minimize the news and reassure them. Older children also need reassurance but they don’t need you to minimize the news. For example, a response to a 15-year-old would be, “That was terrible, wasn’t it? I can’t imagine how devastated I’d be if that happened to you. I also feel bad for the families of the kids who died and for the family of the kid who did the shooting. What do you think could have made this kid so upset that he’d want to hurt others?”

It is important to answer your child’s questions but take your cues from him or her. If your child brings it up two or three times, pay attention. Their concern is like smoke and underneath they may be hiding a fire.  Dr. Leman shares, “If your daughter asks you about firearms, and you’re startled, jumping on her for asking about the topic won’t further your conversation. Instead try responding instead of reacting by saying, ‘Tell me more about that.’” She may have overheard a classmate talking about bringing a gun to school and is concerned. Most kids are not going to share information with their parents easily. Their thoughts percolate. When they ask you questions, answer their question and nothing more. Don’t be long-winded. If they want to know more, they will ask more questions. He adds, “It’s best to err on the side of too little information than too much.”

Children are affected much more by what is directly related to them than by larger world issues. Their main concerns are rejection, uncertainty and fear itself. This trio is part of your child’s psychological makeup daily. So how do parents ease their burden? Dr. Leman says the following are antidotes: Unconditional love and acceptance, stability at home, and realistic encouragement and a guarantee that your child won’t be all alone. “That is why, parent, no matter what is happening in your own life, your child needs you to stand firmly and not blow with the wind,” explains Dr. Leman. Telling your child that bad things happen but that you are in it together, and will get through it together, goes a long way. It gives them stability and something they can count on.

Internationally known psychologist, award-winning author, humorist, New York Times bestselling author, radio and television personality, and speaker, Dr. Leman has taught and entertained audiences worldwide with his wit and common-sense psychology. A well-known media personality, speaker and columnist, Dr. Leman has appeared on programs including Oprah, CNN, Good Morning America, CBS The Early Show, LIVE with Regis and Kelly, Today and The View. He is the founder and president of Couples of Promise, an organization he created to help couples remain happily married.

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Author of: When Your Kid is Hurting (Revell, 2018)


Award-winning author, radio and television personality



Appeared on Oprah, CNN, Good Morning America, CBS The Early Show, LIVE with Regis and Kelly, Today and The View

Founder & President of Couples of Promise

Founder, Leman Academy of Excellence

Married to Sande, 5 children & 4 grandchildren


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