Something that every parent and guardian is going to have to go through is having difficult topics with their little one. It’s never easy and can even be downright awkward. But if you want them to have proper development and education, then you need to have these topics with them rather than hoping the school, internet, or TV will teach them instead. It’s one of the toughest jobs in this parenting role and can even feel impossible to put words into this. Having these discussions can really help with distress. So, these are some helpful tips that you can use to discuss difficult topics with your children.
How you’ll approach them is going to vary depending on their age
You wouldn’t talk to a 15-year-old the same way you would talk to a 5-year-old. So, it’s important to think about how you plan to explain a certain difficult topic and how you might approach them with this difficult topic. Maybe even the topic itself will be difficult. Also, think about whether they would like to approach you with a certain topic or not and how you can be accommodating for that.
Think about the environment
When you’re going to discuss a difficult topic with your child, no matter the topic, it’s best to make sure that the environment is comfortable. Finding the ideal environment is going to be fairly difficult. You’ll want to create a safe space at home where you and your children can have this talk. So it’s very important to make your home perfect for your kids, and having this safe space is going to be a great start.
Think about how you feel emotionally before approaching your children
If you just found out some bad news, you should wait and take this in before talking to your children about it. This doesn’t mean waiting days, but maybe minutes or hours. This is something that is going to be incredibly challenging, but you want to try and be level-headed enough when you talk to your children about this news. This doesn’t mean that you can’t show your emotions whether it be anger or sadness. It just means you need to have a clear head to explain what happened and maybe even answer questions if they have any.
Find out what they know
Kids are far smarter than they lead on. Sometimes when it comes to difficult topics, such as current events, your child may have some knowledge about it. Word spreads online fast around school, and especially online. Just directly ask your kid what they know about a certain topic, and this may give you some room to give them an explanation or answer any of their questions.
Don’t be afraid to address their curiosity
Some topics can be incredibly uncomfortable, even just flat-out awkward. It happens, but it’s important to keep in mind that your child is human and curious. One of the most frequent questions is “where do babies come from?”, but there are plenty of other topics as well. Yes, it’s very important that certain topics are age-appropriate, but sometimes you can’t always wait. With the internet, classmates, and what’s generally on the media, sometimes you need to address certain topics sooner rather than later. Don’t punish or lie to a child if they’re curious about certain topics, instead of either directly telling them or letting them know that they will get their answers when they’re at an appropriate age.
Look for positives in dark topics
There are plenty of positives that can be addressed depending on the topic. For instance, if you’re discussing substance abuse and addictions with your children, let them know that there are services to help them such as IOP. If you’re discussing poverty and homelessness with your children, then bring up the Brightside of charities, food banks, and other organizations helping them out.
Tell the truth
Never be dishonest with your children when they’re asking questions. Even if you’re the one that is approaching them with this hard-to-talk-about subject, you need to be open and honest with them in everything that you’re saying. Even if you’re not ready, to tell the truth, or be open, you can either let them know you’ll tell them later or just flat out tell them the truth. You need to lay out the facts, and they need to know about these facts. You can even leave out the graphic details or anything that’s unsettling, but you just have to be honest.
You have to give your child reassurance, let them know that they’re safe, that they’re going to be alright, they’re loved, and that they have your support. Even if you, the parent, are feeling afraid, questioning things, or feeling unsure about the situation, your children need to know that they’re safe. Remind them that in these difficult times, that you’re going to be there for them and things will eventually improve.
Observe your child’s emotions
During difficult talks, and even after difficult talks, it’s very important to observe your child. Watch their body language, their expressions, and ask them how they’re feeling. Let them know that they can be completely open and honest with you about their emotions. Give them reassurance and let them know that you’re there for them. Also, let them know that they shouldn’t bottle up how they’re feeling as this will make their emotions worse.
Be open to seeking out a professional
Topics may take a lot out of a child. Some news, such as a death or a divorce, may make them isolated, aggressive, or even depressed. When this happens, it’s best to seek out a mental health professional that is experienced with helping out children. Each child will have their own way to process information, and whether they’ll accept or reject what’s happening.
Just because you or your other children are handling a bad event in one way shouldn’t automatically mean that there should be an expectation that the other child will handle it in the same way. Just be patient with your child, talk to them about their feelings, and seek out a professional to help them.