Asking “what if” is helpful when it includes thinking things through in order to be prepared. One example is: “What if my child needs to be told some difficult news? How can I best handle the situation?” It helps to deliver bad news slowly and sensitively. Children appreciate adults being honest with them. When you withhold from them, they feel rejected.
When Marvin was eleven, his sister suddenly wasn’t there. No one in his family said anything about what had happened to her. He started to have terrible nightmares about her, trouble sleeping, and barely made it through school. When he was grown he learned she had been murdered. He felt terrible that she had had such a violent death. He also felt betrayed that his parents had not told him the truth. He had not been allowed to feel his feelings about what had happened nor mourn her with the rest of the family.
Parents are misguided or not aware of the damage they’re doing when they don’t tell kids as soon as possible when something has happened that will change their lives. We may also be suffering the same loss, but children are more delicate than we are. As difficult as it may be to face a child’s emotional reaction, it’s a mistake to withhold information of the death of a beloved friend or close relative. Though parents may feel devastated themselves, children need to be included in the mourning process.
Samantha’s father was murdered in his office when she was six years old. She heard her mother talking to her Christian Scientist practitioner on the phone that night for a long time. The next morning all the photographs of her father were gone and he was gone, but nothing was said about him. Samantha’s mother was never available to listen to her feelings. Nobody in her family was allowed to refer to her father.
Seven-year-old Shelley was visiting relatives when she was escorted home by airplane to a house filled with relatives who didn’t speak to her about why they were there. They paid no attention to her at all. She kept insisting that someone say something until one of them broke down and told her the truth: her father had died, leaving six children behind. Being ignored haunted her almost as much as the loss itself.
The Questioner personality is associated with needing to feel safe and asking “what if?” Preparing for eventualities can be constructive or negative when in the form of compulsive worrying. Questioners we interviewed for “The Career Within You” liked to investigate things from many angles. As children, they search for the truth to help feel secure. Imagine yourself as the Questioner part of a child who needs to know what’s going on. The child feels insecure when sensing a lack of information.
This blog was based on parts of my book, “The Enneagram of Death.” Please see reviews and how to order it on my website, http://wagele.com/
This blog first appeared on Psychology Today, September 2006