In a world where the news is at our fingertips, it is vital to have an open line of communication with your children, no matter their age. One of the most difficult parts of parenting is having challenging conversations with our children. Difficult and complex topics are hard for everyone to understand, parents included. Discussing subjects such as racism, sexism, violence, drugs and other heavy topics is something that helps children trust their parents, communicate effectively and think more complexly as they grow. Avoiding topics completely can be detrimental to a child’s growth and understanding.
Whether you’ve mastered the difficult conversation talk or are just starting out, these are some key tips to consider when talking to your child.
If your child brings a topic to your attention, they have trusted you enough to ask about it and request your feedback. Listen to them as they speak about it, so you have a general understanding of what they’ve already heard. Gage their feelings and emotions. Give them your full attention throughout the conversation.
Check your biases at the door
Having an open and honest conversation about a difficult subject should be more facts based than personal when discussing it with children. Be open with your emotions, but don’t be overly opinionated or one-sided. It is important for kids to see both sides of a situation to understand the complexities and develop empathetic viewpoints of their own. Avoid excessive adjectives to describe people or situations.
Discuss situations in a simplistic format
Kids should be informed about issues, but do not need every tiny detail of the situation. A general understanding of the “5 W’s” (who, what, when, where and why) sums up the situation pretty nicely without oversharing.
Use words that are age-appropriate
In order for them to understand the situation at hand they need to understand the terminology used. Choose words that are descriptive but understood by them.
Limit accessibility to news outlets
Choose media sources that are in-line with your children’s ages. Do not give them free reign over their television choices. For older children, sit down with them to watch news reports if it is something they request. Watching together allows you to have an open conversation about what you are watching and learning.
Be their source of safety
After discussing a difficult situation make sure they walk away knowing that you are their safe haven. Reassure them that they will remain safe and unharmed
Difficult topics should not be a “one and done” conversation. After the initial chat your child may have questions that arise as things unfold or they think about it further. Encourage them to ask questions as they process the situation and be emotionally available to readdress their feelings about the topic.
We, as a country, are in the midst of a global pandemic while also addressing various other issues and inequalities. There are a lot of difficult conversations to be had right now. Communication between you and your children is key to their growth, even when that means addressing difficult topics. Keep an open line of communication between you and your children at all times allowing them to feel comfortable discussing difficult and uneasy situations with you, no matter what may arise.