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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

How to Talk to Your Kids About Difficult Topics

Dec 30, 2022 09:31AM ● By Daniella Andrews
Parenthood is beautiful, but certain moments can be challenging; talking to our kids about a serious matter is undoubtedly one of them. Family tragedies, divorce, health issues—topics we wish never came came up but unfortunately do—must be talked about with our kids. Luckily, there’s a way to make things a bit easier. Use this guide to learn how to talk to kids and put difficult topics into words.

Adapt the conversation to their age

Use vocabulary appropriate to the child’s age. If the child is young, use simple terms and ideas they are already familiar with. Talk about their feelings and constantly reassure them about the security and love in the family. If the child is a bit older, it might be necessary to dig a little deeper to discover what they know and are afraid of. Teenagers might feel shy to share their fears and worries, so ask questions and be sure to encourage an open dialogue.

Pick the right moment

Talking about important or difficult topics requires the right moment and a safe environment. Sometimes kids will make comments or ask questions while together in public. When that occurs, acknowledge they have been heard and let them know that the topic will be addressed once at home. This will ensure that both parent and child can stay focused and be in a space that is peaceful and feels safe.

It’s also important for parents to be ready for the talk, so picking the right moment also refers to the parent’s emotional state. Staying calm and composed in front of the child is essential. When we control our emotions, we are an example to oour kids on how to handle serious matters. From their extensive experience in treating addiction issues, experts from share that parents’ attitudes are one of the leading factors for a family member to accept a fresh start.

Be honest

Try to be honest about what is going on and all the vital information regarding the topic. Of course, it’s okay to leave any disturbing or graphic details out, but kids appreciate honesty, and by telling the truth, parents teach them a valuable lesson on how to deal with their issues later on. Even though giving them a more softened version of the story may seem easier, it’s always better to stay honest and tell them the truth.

Focus on their reaction

As the conversation proceeds, be sure to observe the child's emotions and behavior. This will help the parent lead the conversation correctly and react well if the child burst into tears or has a similar emotional reaction. Kids sometimes feel uninterested and distant, which can signify worry or processing. However, if it seems as if the conversation isn’t going anywhere, it’s best to wait a while. Sometimes, kids are not ready to talk about specific topics, so waiting a bit until a better time is the best thing to do.

Why is it important to talk to your kids about difficult topics?

As parents, we sometimes try to protect our young ones from harsh reality. And that’s okay. However, we also don’t want our kids to grow up and enter adulthood unprepared. There are several reasons why it’s essential to talk to our kids about complex topics:

  • It helps them understand their environment and certain events, which can help them be less scared of things around them;
  • It’s easier to develop their own opinion and learn to ask questions;
  • They learn how to deal with emotions and issues that might come their way later in life;
  • When parents are honest with them, kids learn more about the value of telling the truth and start to appreciate parents more;
  • Kids feel valued when serious issues are discussed with them; treating them like babies forever does not help;
  • It minimizes the effect of surprise and anxiety levels that might occur when a child faces a problem or situation they know nothing about.

Even though they’re just kids, they deserve to know the truth about things happening around them. It’s not always easy to talk to kids about complicated topics, but there are ways to deliver the important information without them feeling anxious or uncomfortable.

Most importantly, parents need to be supportive at all times. Even though certain issues might make children afraid, confused and stressed, they should always know their parents are supportive and understanding. If a family member needs professional help or addiction recovery, encourage them rather than judge them. If kids feel loved and secure, they’ll communicate more openly and find it easier to understand whatever topic is brought up.

If a parent still finds it difficult to talk to their kids about a particular topic, they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for help. Sometimes, talking to someone objective can make things easier and less tense between family members.

Daniella Andrews is a psychologist. In her spare time, she writes about family and likes to blog about the difficulties children face nowadays.