Talking to kids about the hard stuff can be, well, really hard. As a parent it is our job to guide our children through life, and topics such as death, divorce and sex will inevitably come up and can be tricky to navigate. So how do we approach them? Here are some things to consider:
- Their age: What a two year old can understand is very different to what a twelve year old can. It is important to consider not only your child’s age but their developmental stage and personality. Each child will respond differently and you know your child best so think about what concepts they understand, their language and communication level etc.
- Need to know basis: Think about the key things that they need to know (and that may not be everything). For example, you may need to explain to them that a loved one is sick but don’t need to go into all the details of the actual prognosis. Sometimes we can give too much information and we need to be mindful of not burdening children with adult situations. However, it is also important that we be honest with our children, as hard as it can sometimes be, in order to avoid sending confusing messages or creating mistrust.
- The right time and place: Consider the time and place you choose to talk to your child. Ensure the environment is calm and quiet and you’re not in a rush.
- Be prepared: Try to think about what questions your child might ask and how you will respond. Of course you won’t be able to prepare for everything but taking the time to think about what approach you will take and also talking to your partner/other family members about this beforehand is a good idea too.
- Start simple then let them guide you: You might like to start with a really simple statement and see how your child responds. Sometimes, a very simple explanation will be all that a child needs. It can surprise you how children will often accept things at face value, so let them guide you. If they ask questions try your best to answer them. If they want to talk, let them, and if they don’t, give them that space too.
- Talk to a professional: Sometimes it may also be helpful to seek advice from a professional- people such as doctors, teachers and psychologists will be able to provide you with information and resources to assist in both talking to children about difficult topics and managing any concerns.
There will be many times as a parent when you will need to talk to your child about the hard stuff but above all, the most important things to remember is to be honest and trust that you know your child best.
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