I don’t need to point out that there is a lot of chaos happening in the world right now.
Imagine how difficult it has been for you to navigate COVID-19, the protests and the general unrest that is plaguing our planet.
So you can imagine how difficult this must be for your child.
It can be very difficult as a parent to discuss these kinds of topics with your child. Depending on your child’s age, how to explain what is happening in a way that makes sense?
While you may be lucky to have smaller children who are not exposed to the news and social media opinion, more and more children at young ages are.
It may be tempting to ignore the issue and allow your child to live in ignorant bliss, but the reality is that you really should be having those difficult conversations with your little one.
Here are some tips for talking to your kids about difficult topics:
Why You Should Have These Discussions
First of all, it’s important to understand why you should be talking to your children about difficult topics.
Addressing tough issues makes your kids feel safer, especially with you. If you are the one giving them the information and calming their anxieties, they will see you as a safe place.
It also teaches them about the world and how to gather and interpret information.
In this day and age, you never know what to believe (especially on the internet). Having these discussions will help them learn how to ask questions and verify sources.
Ultimately, they will become critical thinkers.
Talking to Toddlers
Even though your toddler is likely exposed to what is happening in the world – either because you watch the news, talk about it or they see it on their tablets – they don’t have enough life experience to interpret what is going on.
They also have short attention spans, so if you can manage their media exposure they will likely move on quickly from the issue.
When it comes to dealing with difficult issues and toddlers, sometimes less is more. Try to avoid lengthy explanations and keep things simple:
- Be reassuring and address their feelings. They may feel your anxiety and fear, so let them know it’s okay to be scared and that they are safe.
- Use simple terms to explain a situation. Use words and ideas they are familiar with.
- Be a role model. Try to eliminate bias in your vocabulary by avoiding describing a person’s ethnicity, weight, looks, financial status, etc.
School-Aged and Pre-Teen Kids
This is the age in which children become exposed to age-inappropriate content more often – and no fault of yours, it happens.
However, kids around this age are still trying to differentiate what is real and what is pretend. They are only beginning to develop abstract thinking skills during this time.
This is the time to start really discussing important matters but you still need to be careful. You never want your child to feel shame or embarrassment for asking you questions or not understanding concepts.
- Be a safe space. Try to keep your own feelings out of it and let your child talk and ask questions.
- Use open-ended questions. This will help encourage critical thinking by getting them to think more deeply about serious topics.
- Look for the silver lining. There’s always a positive in a situation so try to be optimistic. As Mr. Roger’s mother always said: “Look for the helpers.”
Talking to Teenagers
By the time your children are teenagers, you are basically talking to miniature adults. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t still need guidance understanding difficult topics.
They are fully engaged in media at this point and are aware of what is happening in the world.
It’s likely that they feel more comfortable talking to their friends about what is going on and are going to turn away from your explanations (because they think they know best).
The best you can do at this point is guide them toward sources that will enrich their knowledge and encourage them to ask questions.
If you want to create an open environment of communication, listen to their concerns without judgment and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something.
How do you talk to your children about difficult issues? Let us know in the comments!