How to talk to your child about tough issues
A parent shares tried-and-tested tips on how to talk to your child about difficult subjects. Keep reading to find out what they are!
My 5-year-old daughter is starting to ask me questions like, “Mommy, why do you go to work? Can you just stay at home?”
One time she asked, “Why can’t we buy that toy I saw on TV?” And when she saw on television that some parts of Asia have been flooded, she inquired, “Why do floods happen?”
During these times when she is so inquisitive, I always seem to run out of words to explain the answers to her questions.
Now, if my child is already asking me these type of questions when she is still very young, it’s most likely that she’ll ask even more difficult questions when she’s older.
I cannot help but ask myself this question then — how do you talk to your child about tough issues? How can I talk to my young children about difficult issues or issues that might not yet be appropriate for their age?
Many things are happening around our country and around the world, and discussing sensitive issues with my children can really be challenging.
That’s why I did my own research and came up with a list of suggestions on how to tackle difficult topics with children. I’m sharing them here with you, in case you find them useful.
Even before your child starts to become curious about difficult issues such as sex, relationships, death, natural disasters or all sorts of things, prepare yourself by reading books and other materials, and by educating yourself.
In doing so, you will be able to answer your child’s questions with the simplest explanation, without making up stories. You can also give him/her the most accurate information that you can, to help avoid him/her from forming any misconceptions.
Discuss things with them from a young age
While your children are still young, use storybooks as tools to talk about tough issues. Nowadays, there are numerous illustrated children’s books which help explain tough issues in the form of stories.
You can use these books as a starting point for a discussion with your children, based on the story you have read.
This should be done while our children are still young because they can already see and hear about such issues from the television and other forms of media.
As early as possible, let us — the parents — lay the foundation for our children, and properly educate them in this area.
Encourage open communication
If your children ask questions, be open to them. Do not criticize them or be angry with them.
Instead, acknowledge their questions and try to answer them with facts. When you encourage them to ask questions, they will more likely come to you for answers on difficult topics they want to understand.
It is especially important that you open up communication lines between you and your child when there are changes in the family, such as moving to another house, you or your spouse losing a job, or the passing away of a family member.
Talk to your child about the changes that are happening and involve them in the process. Do not allow them to figure out things on their own. Your guidance and support are highly needed by your children during these challenging times.
Although you have kept the lines of communication open between you and your child, there may still be times when they will hesitate talking to you.
This is why you should be observant and start conversations with them whenever there is an opportunity.
For example, when you are watching television or a movie together, you can relate a story or a news event by asking questions about what they have seen. From there, you can start a conversation about tough issues.
Talking with your kids as often as you can will help get them used to having all sorts of discussions with you — even about tough issues.
Communicate your values
When you talk to your child about tough issues like violence, drugs, alcohol and sex, you should also share with them your values and principles. Your children need to know what you believe is right and wrong, and why you want to pass on these values to them.
Listen to their questions and ideas
Give attention to your child when he or she asks a question, even if it is a seemingly innocent one. Think carefully about it before answering.
If he or she asks more questions or has more comments on a certain issue or topic, give an appropriate response and try to consider their ideas.
Also, don’t tell him or her much more than what your child can take or understand for that time.
As in other matters, you need to be patient with your child, especially when it takes time for them to finish their questions or to say what they think.
By listening and being patient, you are able to show your child that he/she is important to you.
When your child asks you a question about sex, violence, drugs, alcohol or other tough issues that you are unprepared to answer, try to be calm as possible. You will not be able to answer him or her in a matter-of-fact way if you are nervous, angry or agitated.
If you are unable to speak calmly at that time, ask your partner to do it or try to tell your child that you will talk about it some other time. Make sure that you keep your word to do so.
In every discussion you will have with your child, always remember to be honest. It will help your child build his or her trust in you, and he or she will learn to depend on you for every baffling or confusing thought he or she may have.
As much as possible, don’t leave things unanswered or unexplained. Even if you think your child is still young, you have to provide honest and accurate answers to their questions.
After discovering these recommendations for how to talk to your child about tough issues, I am now more confident to answer the questions my children have about certain subjects. I also know now when I should initiate parent-child discussions on certain issues. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to you, too!
Do you have other tips on how to talk to your child about tough issues? Do share them with us by leaving a comment below!