Explaining challenging subject matter with your kids is necessary, but when you sit down to do it, it can feel like navigating a minefield. Let us share some tips for how to talk to children about difficult topics so that we can help you pick the best approach for this critical aspect of parenthood.
Encourage Open Discussions
Children can understand far more about their surroundings than we realize. So, when you’re tasked with discussing a complex subject matter with them, you must encourage an open discussion where they feel comfortable talking about each aspect of the topic. Urge them to ask questions and tell you when they don’t understand something. Just as well, don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something yourself.
Fostering an environment where your child feels uninhibited and free to speak their mind allows your children to experience and work through their emotions as they absorb new information. Plus, it helps them build a sense of trust with you, letting them feel comfortable and empowered to discuss challenging topics in the future.
Provide Context Appropriately
Although children can grapple with difficult situations and emotions, they won’t always know how to deal with each aspect of a topic. This is especially true for subject matter that entails uncomfortable, violent, or highly nuanced situations. So, it’s prudent to level with your child and provide context for such topics from a more accessible perspective for them to understand. For instance, if you’re trying to explain racism, you might leave some more adult details out of the discussion.
Remember that it’s wise not to overload your child with information and approach each aspect delicately. Talk about the core aspects of a topic, such as basic history, what racism looks like, and how people are affected. And be mindful that the context you give needs to match the maturity of your child. Doing this will help you educate them correctly without providing context that they don’t yet have the tools to understand fully.
Be Sensitive To Their Emotions
Of course, it’s also essential to take your child’s temperament and emotions into account when discussing complex topics. To illustrate, if your child is particularly empathetic to others’ pain, try to speak about issues with an extra layer of sensitivity. This is not to say that you should avoid the more challenging aspects of a conversation; simply remember to be mindful of the emotional experience your child is likely having as they absorb new information.
Just as well, taking some time to accentuate the silver linings of a complicated topic can also be helpful. Doing this makes it easier for your child to have a more balanced perspective on a situation. For instance, perhaps you’re trying to explain how the loss of a loved one has impacted your child’s older sister. This would be a perfect opportunity for you to explain the bereavement process and how it ultimately helps us grieve and become healthier people so that we can move forward.
The next time you find yourself trying to explain a challenging subject, we hope you refer to some of these tips for how to talk to children about difficult topics. Hopefully, they can help you find the best approach for these types of conversations.