How to Talk About Hard Topics with Kids
By Sandy Schroeder
Startling questions from kids usually come when you are threading your way through traffic, or trying not to burn dinner, but we still need to find the right answers.
Whatever their age, 7 or 17, what they see and wonder about may be surprising to us. Probably the best policy is to provide lots of quiet times at home or out walking to just talk. Then the questions may come up about politics, disasters, divorce, shootings, drugs, or some other serious topic.
Take the time to really listen and respond. You may not do a perfect job, and it may be tempting to push the talk off into the future, but dealing with it honestly as it comes up is probably best.
The Washington Post gives us seven things to consider.
Questions usually lead to lots of talks - If we keep the door open for questions, we are apt to have lots of little talks about serious topics like sex, drugs or alcohol. As kids grow, the conversations may build on the earlier ones that you had. So just relax and deal with each one.
It is OK to say it is hard to explain - Be honest and admit that you find it hard to talk about a topic, but it's important to talk about it. Then you might use their questions as jumping off points, which will help both of you settle in and become more comfortable with the talk.
It is OK to think about your answer - Serious topics such as divorce or death that affect your family, require some preparation time and perhaps follow-up after a discussion happens. These topics may need weekly checkpoints for talking when transitions are being made. Those talks may be good ways to read what your child is thinking and to allow them to vent as they react to change.
Nobody has all of the answers - If a complicated question comes up, be honest and take the time to find the right answer.
Don't get into lectures - When your child asks a question, avoid sailing off on a long explanation. Instead, do a relaxed give-and-take approach that keeps it comfortable for both of you.
Know that you are the right source - Be glad that your child asked you instead of looking for an answer online or asking a friend. You know your child and it is important to know what they are thinking. Do the homework to provide an answer and follow up later to see if there are more questions.
As you find ways to talk after dinner, before bedtime or on the weekends, keep the door open for more questions. It may still be a challenge, but you can be sure you are making a difference by being there and letting them know you care.
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