Feeding and Fueling Part 2: Talking to Kids About the Tough Stuff

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Our conversation about youth hunger continues this week with part 2 of our “Feeding and Fueling series”, in partnership with Feeding Our Communities Partners. Last week we shed some light on the subject of youth hunger, some of the reasons why a child may be faced with food insecurity, and how FOCP is working towards solving youth hunger by feeding and fueling our future leaders.

So let’s dig a little deeper. We asked Licensed School Social Worker, Molly Fox some tough questions about talking to kids about tough stuff. Here’s what she had to say. 

Mankato Moms Blog: Should you wait for your children to ask the tough questions or should you bring up topics such as youth hunger to discuss with them?
 
Molly: You can certainly talk about the things that are coming up day to day with our kids as it is age appropriate.  Give them a voice, let them ask questions and lead by example.    It is always good for kids to question and have a dialogue with their parent around tough issues.  To understand that there are difficult things that we all might go through at some time.  How we respond makes all of the difference. 
 
MMB: How can we empower children to ask for help or talk about their problems? 
 
Molly: I think it is important for kids to understand that there are times when others need a helping hand and that they may come about at different times in our lives.  This can also then lead into how kids respond to others that may not be exactly the same as us and how we can embrace each other’s differences.
 
MMB: What are some simple things we can do or say to encourage empathy and acceptance in our children? 
 
Molly: Encouraging our children to get to know others is important and they can cultivate that within their classrooms at school but also within our homes as parents. All kids need a variety of good adults in their lives to encourage positive interactions between kids as well as adult interacting with kids in positive relationships. We should encourage understanding of others stories and being okay with understanding our neighbor’s stories. 
 
MMB: Philanthropy and a spirit of giving can be a difficult concept for children to understand, especially young children. What are some ways we can encourage a spirit of giving and talk about why it’s important? 
 
Molly: What a good skill to naturally teach our kids to give back to our community.  We all can do this just by our kids watching us and participating in all the good things that go on in our community.  Giving back makes everyone’s life better regardless of their socioeconomic status.  For example, you might take your kids to the annual Climb to Feed Kids event for FOCP in January and allow your child to experience each part of the event unfold.  From raising money to running the steps to finally watching the awards equalling making a difference.  This is an amazing impact for adults but also for kids to experience.    
 
MMB: Things like hunger, and the idea of children not having enough food to eat is a difficult thing for kids not affected by hunger to understand. What are some things we can say as parents to help explain things like this, to help children understand? 
 
Molly: It is ok to  be honest by stating that sometimes people need extra support to have everything they need.   This may also be a good time to discuss how we can be a good friend, be respectful as well as  how we can help be a part of the solution.   It is also helpful to express that this does not change who the person is if they are getting some extra help.
   
MMB: Do’s & Don’ts when talking to kids about the tough stuff?
 
Molly: When talking to your kids about tough stuff be honest but keep it appropriate to their age level.  Find out what they may already know or understand about the issue that is difficult and how you can give them words around it  and how they are feeling.  You as the parent are the role model.  Our children are watching our response even when we are not aware. Always look for positives or what they can do, if anything to help a situation or understand the situation better. Depending on the age you can also talk with some depth about what your child is feeling. This is a  good way to support your child and develop skills around listening and problem solving.  
 
MMB: If you know of a child who is facing food insecurity, what are some tips for talking to them about hunger, or any other hardship?
 
Molly: If we know that a child is having a hardship it is important for kids and families to know about all of the resources available to them in their school and in the community.  If there are children that you know who do not have enough food please also consider partnering with the with the School Social Worker or Counselor to assist in getting them connected to resources in the school such as free and reduced lunch program or the Backpack Food Program. The School Social Worker can also work closely with community resources  to make sure families are connected to financial services, The Echo Food Shelf and other local pantries to support families. We also encourage our teens  to utilize The Reach drop in center which provides many, many resources in addition to a meal Monday through Thursday from 1- 5 pm.  We have many churches in our community that serve dinners during the week as well as breakfast. During the summer months, there is a summer feeding program for kids up to age 18, available through the school district at several elementary buildings and the high schools. We are so fortunate to live in the Mankato community where we have access to so many great resources that support kids and families.  
 
Molly Fox , LICSW is the lead School Social Worker for Mankato Area Public Schools.  She has worked for the school district for 12 years.  She also teaches adjunct in the Social Work Department at MSU, Mankato.    She is the mother of 4 children and married to her husband Fred.   She loves working with kids and familes and helping all to navigate what life puts in front of people.  Problem solving , skill building and listening are some of the ways Molly supports kids and families.    Molly is also the co-author of Tools for Anxious Youth and has presented at several venues throughout the state.  She also has co presented locally  Trauma and Youth.    In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and friends, participate in running events, volunteer for local youth focused agencies and travel. 
 
We’d like to say a HUGE thank you to Molly Fox for sharing her thoughts, insights, and expertise with us! Stay tuned to Mankato Moms Blog next week for the final post of this special 3 part series, as we talk about Cirque du Crave – an event coming up to help raise awareness and funds to support the work of Feeding Our Communities Partners, that would also make the perfect Mom’s night out!  
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Growing up in a family of 5 girls, Rachel had never pictured herself as a “Boy Mom”, but now that she is one, she loves it! Her oldest son, Paul is almost 8, and he loves reading, writing stories, Legos, and Tae Kwon Do! William is 4, and he is into sports, Batman, trucks, and is obsessed with donuts! Rachel met her husband, Chris, when they were in 9th and 10th grade at Mankato West High School, and they’ve been together ever since! After High School they lived in Minneapolis for 7 years, but always knew that they would move back to this great community when they were ready to start their family! Rachel works for a local non-profit focused on solving youth hunger, which is something she is very passionate about! She is also an Interior Designer, and works part time at a local clothing boutique! She loves volunteering at her son’s school, and is also the President of the PTA! Some things that keep Rachel happy & sane are early morning fitness classes at the Y, running, a glass of wine with friends or family, shopping, coffee, and getaways with her hubby.