Miriam Around, editor-in-chief of Child magazine describes on The Early Show how parents can talk to their children about Michael Jackson and the allegations of sexual abuse that he faces.
The following is her advice:
- It is important to take cues from the child. Listen carefully to what he or she is asking. Keep the answers simple: Jackson's been accused of a crime, but we don't know if he is guilty. Say that he is a star who may have done something wrong.
- Answer what they ask. If a child goes further with his questioning, go into detail.
- If they ask questions about what Michael Jackson has done, say he's accused of being inappropriate with a child. Hopefully you've had other discussions about inappropriate behavior of an adult with a child.
- Explain to them that they are protected if somebody touches them in an inappropriate manner or does something to their bodies that makes them uncomfortable. The law protects children very strongly.
Kids should know there is so much attention to the story because people take these accusations very seriously. You should reassure the child that people are watching and want to protect him.
- It's an opportunity to say to your kids that people have problems and that we should give the legal process a chance.
- If your children are still fans of his music, let them listen to it. This doesn't change the fact that he is extremely talented and that he makes good music. People can be very talented who have other problems in their life.
- If your kids have not brought Michael Jackson up, approach the subject yourself only if the child is 8 or 9 years old. At this age, you have to assume they are hearing something at school and you can use it as an opportunity to communicate and bring it up. If they are 3 to 4 years old, let it die.
- If your child doesn't want to talk about it, don't push it too far. Monitor the news because you want your child to feel secure in the world. You need to remember that the world you create at home is how secure your child feels and you don't need to bring in too much of that anxiety from the outside world.
- It is important for children to know that parents are there as a sounding board. Parents should not communicate anxiety to their kids. If the parents get emotional or are very nervous, children will get upset, too.
- Before talking to your children about this subject, be aware of what tone of voice you use. Are you anxious or uncomfortable? You want them to feel comfortable about coming to you on these subjects.
- Depending on the age of the child, don't watch the news too much. Yes, you have to introduce them to what is happening in the world when they get older, but if they are very young, it could be scary.
- Remind your children that you love them and you're here to protect them and if anything happens to make them uncomfortable, they can come to you.