In the past few weeks the children of both Tiger Woods and Chris Henry have had to deal with an exaggerated amount of public scrutiny of their parents. The outcome for Woods' children may be a broken home because of divorce, while Henry's young children are left without a father. ESSENCE.com spoke with author and parenting expert Audrey Griffin about how families can help children cope with a break-up or death and why their emotional well-being is paramount.
ESSENCE.com: What was the first thing that came to your mind about Chris Henry's children when you heard about the tragedy?
Audrey Griffin: Obviously it's very devastating to hear anything in that nature. As a parenting expert your first concern is the children and how they're going to go on. It's going to be so important that the children be in a healthy environment in order to grieve, with someone who will understand their reality. Often in these situations the surviving parent is emotionally unavailable to support a grieving child. It's going to be crucial for the children to have someone to rely on to answer their questions and there are going to be a lot of questions.
ESSENCE.com: Were you surprised when you heard that Children's Services visited the home of Tiger Woods?
Griffin: Not really because sometimes when a situation gets to be to that level whether there's public attention or not, Child Services' main concern is that the children are still safe. I think the reason they got involved was to make sure it was a safe situation, not to get them mixed up in a media scandal.
ESSENCE.com: From your experience, what can people do to protect their children in such contentious cases?
Griffin: The key will be communication. In dealing with situations like that you would want someone close to come and help with younger kids. Maybe [Tiger's] mother-in-law was coming to help her daughter deal with the situation. With older kids it's a little different because they have a lot of other things going on and if they get the gist of what's going on, whether it's from media or their friends, you have to talk to them. You have to have conversations to let them know what it is happening, don't let them find out from the outside. You have to be up front with your kids and let them know that it's not their fault.
ESSENCE.com: Even if yours is not a high-profile case, how upfront should you be in this situation?
Griffin: Adult conversations should not be taking place, but give them enough for them to know that some things may have transpired but mommy and daddy are dealing with it, not the children.
ESSENCE.com: What are some ways to support your children?
Griffin: First of all take control of the situation in your household. Whether you use religion or prayer, you can also always turn to God. But overall I would have to say listen to your kids and in doing so, if they get confronted with something at school; let them understand that mommy and daddy have told them the truth and there will be speculation. If your kid has a hard day with classmates you have to take that moment when you can build your child up and tell them to walk away from certain situations.
ESSENCE.com: You're also married to a former NBA player Adrian Griffin. How do you teach your children to deal with intense public scrutiny?
Griffin: I've always taught my children that people are gonna have their opinion but they should know whatever mommy and daddy decide to do in any situation that we're always gonna have their best interest at heart. We have to reinforce that to them because they are our priority.
Audrey Griffin, MAEd is a contemporary parenting consultant and founder of "Remove Your Cape," (audreygriffin.com/blog) a parenting lifestyle blog. Her parenting lifestyle book "The Day I Took Off My Cape," hits bookshelves in Spring 2010.
Read more coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal and Chris Henry tragedy here and here.