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How to Talk to Your Child About Difficult Topics

July 7, 2020

Navigating hard topics with kids isn’t easy!  These tips will help you learn how to talk to your child about difficult topics.

How to talk to your child about difficult topics

I don’t know what it’s like where you live but things are still pretty crazy around here with all this quarantine, phases of reopening, masks, school opening, and all the things.  Sometimes I think things are getting better and have hope for the future and other times I want to crawl in a hole and be woken up when the world is back to normal.

Now we add all the sickness stuff to everything else going on in the world – BLM, racism, white supremacy, the economy, politics…  I’m going to stop now or my head might explode!  If I’m struggling with processing, learning, and living in a healthy manner, chances are that my kids are picking up on that and struggling too.

In my house we have had to talk to our oldest child, Caleb, about some difficult topics.  It started one rest time when he just started bawling.  This kid is a pretty stoic child and doesn’t show too many emotions so I was confused and shocked.  I wrapped him in my arms and asked him what was going on.  He said “I miss people, mom!  Why doesn’t God just take this sickness away?”  My heart was pretty shattered when I realized how much he was internalizing and we had a good conversation about what was going on in the world.

Since I now know better and know that my little man is taking it all in and processing things, I’ve tried to ask him every week or so if there’s anything he had questions about or wanted to talk about.  Usually there’s not much but a few weeks ago he asked “Mom, why do you and daddy keep talking about the police?”  I hadn’t realized he had been listening to those conversations but explained to him (in five year old language) a little of what’s been going on in America.

How to Talk to Your Child About Difficult Topics

I’m no stranger to talking to Caleb about difficult topics.  We’ve had to work through conversations about death (specifically suicide), religion, racism (he has black aunts and uncles), and a lot more already at a young age.  Obviously we do our best to keep conversations age appropriate but we also try hard to be honest and open with our son.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably wondering how to talk to your child about difficult topics.  I don’t have it all figured out (in the slightest!) but I do have some guidelines I use for myself in these conversations that might help you out!

Pray

Unfortunately, I’ll be the first to admit that this is the tip I tend to forget the most.  When my boys are asking me the hard questions I want to jump in and start giving answers, sympathizing with them, and all the other things.  Taking a second to sit back and ask God to give me wisdom in talking with my kids doesn’t come naturally.

All that being said, I’m still going to tell you that prayer is vital when it comes to having the hard conversations with our kids!  God is a God of grace and wisdom and He will absolutely be there for us as we speak truth into the lives our our precious little ones.

Give the Answers You Can

When it comes to the hard questions, it’s likely that you don’t have all the answers.  The questions wouldn’t be hard if the answers were easy!  As you answer your child don’t worry as much about what you don’t know or can’t answer.  Think about the things you ARE able to answer and highlight those in what you’re saying.

Don’t Lie

Once you’ve given the answers you can, sometimes it feels like it would be easier to start filling in the cracks with info that isn’t the truth.  It’s a silly example but if your kiddo is asking about where babies come from you may not want to give all the details.  You answer as much as you’re comfortable but then maybe throw in a “and then the stork drops the baby off.”  Obviously this situation is a little out there but there are a lot more deep rooted lies that could be told.  Try your best to just not do it, even if it makes you uncomfortable.  The confusion and pain that could come later because of lies are just not worth it.

Admit When You Don’t Know

Since I’ve just told you that you’re not allowed to lie, I’m now going to tell you that there’s no shame in not knowing something.  Sometimes the right answer to give your kids is just to say that you don’t have an answer.  If it’s something you can research, tell them you’ll do that and get back to them.   Better yet, research it together!  If it’s something that is unknowable, let your kid know that sometimes things are out of our understanding.  It’s a good way to teach them to become comfortable with that idea, especially as they grow up and are introduced to more situations that are unknowable.

Help You Kid Feel Secure

Sometimes kids can feel insecure when they realize their parents don’t know everything or all their questions aren’t answered.  Figure out ways to help your kid feel secure in the midst of an insecure time.  Remind them of your love for them, remind them about the truths of the Gospel, and remind them that you’re here for them whenever they need to talk.  I have found that my boys respond more to my times of helping them feel secure than they often do to the answers I give them.

Distract When Necessary

There isn’t always a firm ending to hard conversations with kids so sometimes it’s up to you to end the conversation.  Instead of letting your kiddo dwell in the conversation, do something to get their mind off it.  Go for a bike ride, read a book, play a game…  The list is endless.  Don’t use distraction as an easy out or a way to not have the conversation.  Just use it as a helpful tool to change the subject and get back into the joys of life.

Any thoughts you’d like to add on how to talk to your child about difficult topics?  Share them in the comments!

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How to talk to your child about difficult topics

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