Published August 6, 2020
The decision to have a talk with your kids about a difficult topic can make any parent want to hide in their bedroom until the children are grown and gone. Death, divorce, sex, violence, and now the risk of viral infection can go on and on. During these moments even a parent who always has something to say about any topic their kid throws at them is suddenly left tongue-tied.
It can be very tempting to avoid uncomfortable topics or give a very vague answer hoping the kids will be satisfied. But kids are born with detective-like skills. If you don’t give them the answers they’re looking for, they’ll find those answers somewhere else. And that can be dangerous.
Instead, try talking to your kids like this.
Take the Bull By the Horns
I do not mean you dive into the conversation when your kid asks about a particular topic. Take the initiative to have the talk instead of waiting for your child to ask. There is never an ideal time to have a difficult conversation with your child, but the longer you wait to face the inevitable, the harder it will be.
Before bombarding kids with a ton of information, ask your child what they already know. Do not make the conversation feel like an interrogation. If you make your child feel comfortable and heard, you will get to know of any misinformation they have and correct it, hopefully before they’ve had a chance to act on it.
Sometimes, Less Is More
Don’t overdo it. Keep the conversation simple. If they’re participating, let your child lead the conversation. Be direct, to the point, and don’t volunteer information. If your child has asked you a question, answer it quickly and simply. Then follow up with a question of your own regarding what they know about the subject.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
“You seem upset.”
“It is perfectly okay to cry.”
“Ok, maybe it’s a little funny.”
Feelings happen. Harboring emotions can be dangerous. The earlier you teach your child to acknowledge and talk about their feelings, the easier it will be to help them grow healthily. Laugh, cry, fume with your child as they need. Let them lead, and be sure to offer support.
Are you now ready to face the topics your kids throw your way? You do not have to be perfect, start the conversation, and be a good listener and responsive.