One of the toughest jobs as a parent is knowing how to talk about big life issues or current events with your children. With social media and news easily accessible to kids, it’s normal for them to hear about what’s going on in the world and maybe even have access to things they shouldn’t have. From terrorist attacks and the global pandemic to sex and relationships, it’s important to make sure you tackle these bigger subjects in a calm way to allow you and your child to have an honest and open discussion. Here’s some tips on how to talk through these more serious issues with your child.
Create A Safe Space For A Discussion
When approaching any big subject with your child, it’s always important to start by creating a safe space for you to both have an honest and open discussion. Don’t be afraid to say that these subjects can be hard to discuss, even for adults. Assure them that you’re just going to have a conversation and they can say or ask anything without getting into trouble.
Encourage An Open Discussion
When confronting more serious issues, it’s a good idea for the discussion to be open. This means as the parent it’s your job to encourage an open dialogue. You can do this by using open-ended questions throughout the conversation. Ask, "What do you think about that?," "What do you know about it?," "Who do you think is at fault?," and "Why do you think that?" This can help kids think more deeply as well as be more willing to ask questions or voice their opinions without fear of consequences. It’s also crucial to be willing to listen carefully to everything they have to say. If your kids don’t feel heard, they’re less likely to open up.
Answer Questions Honestly
Being honest when talking about big issues with your kids, especially teens, is key. For younger children, it’s still important to tell the truth, but you can share only as much as you feel your child needs to know. Having this honesty between you will help calm any fears or worries they may have and help them to feel safe. Often not knowing or understanding something can be a big cause of confusion and anxiety. It’s also a good idea to be honest and admit if you don’t know the answers to one of their questions. Just assure them you will look into it and try to find out for them.
Encourage An Open Mind
When having these harder conversations, always try and encourage your child to have an open mind. Get them to consider how complex a lot of difficult subjects can be. Whether this is problems they may be facing in their own life, social issues, politics or violence and crime - remind them how nothing is ever black and white, and usually there are lots of factors at play. Having this mindset will help them to understand other points of view and help them to always stay open-minded. However, it’s also important to provide context and perspective so they can still make sense of an issue. For example, if you’re discussing a race-based crime, you can respond using an answer similar to this: "Some people wrongly believe that light-skinned people are better than dark-skinned people. Without the correct information, they sometimes commit crimes they think are justified."
Sometimes the more serious issues you need to discuss such as sex and relationships may involve things your child is embarrassed to talk about. It’s really important to assure them they don’t have to discuss anything they’re not ready to and that anything they do say is private. The more they trust that you’re just there to support them and not lecture them or be nosy, the more likely they will be to open up to you.
Keep The Conversation Going
Finally, keep the conversation going about these big issues. Don’t have one difficult chat and never revisit it again. Make it a regular occurrence - the more open and honest discussions you and your child have, the more likely they’ll be to come to you for advice and may even start to talk to you more about some of the more daunting topics.