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How to Talk to Your Kids about Role Models

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 2:56 PM

Many kids look up to athletes, celebrities and other public figures as their role models. They want to be just like that star – not only do they watch them on the field or red carpet, but they also keep up with them in the news. But what happens when their favorite role model is in the news for poor behavior and illegal activities? How do you talk to your kids about this?

Dr. Brenda Hernandez, Clinical Psychologist at NorthShore, helps parents have a better understanding on how to approach this difficult subject:

  • Do not sugarcoat it. Explain what happened and why what their rodel model allegedly did is wrong. When you are talking about the bad event, use this as a teaching moment to tell your kids what could have been done instead.
  • Keep it age appropriate. Express the situation in a way that each age group will understand. Younger kids do not necessarily need as much detail as older kids do. When you are having the conversation, be sure to keep a compassionate tone throughout and do not make it a fearful conversation.
  • Discuss the situation early. Kids talk at school and they sometimes hear more than we would like. If your kids have not seen it on the news, you can guarantee another kid did. And kids do not always get the facts straight. This gives you a chance to control what they hear and help them be properly informed.
  • Innocent until proven guilty. This is hard, especially with media running constantly. This gives kids a chance to learn how the judicial system works and why they are innocent until proven guilty. Be sure to balance empathy as well as compassion during this talk.
  • Remind them that stars are people too. Public figures tend to be put up on this pedestal in kids’ lives as well as ours. While role models may be perceived as heroes, they are just like us. Explain that there is a way to appreciate the skills an athlete may possess or a talent a star has, but his or her personality or choices are not admirable.

Let your kids know that they can talk to you about anything, no matter how sensitive the topic is. This conversation can be used to strengthen the bond between you and your kids and may open the communication line a little more.