How to Start Hard Conversations with Children
Children are naturally curious, and most parents want to encourage that trait in their children. However, this natural curiosity can sometimes feel more like a curse than a gift when your children ask about difficult topics. There are no perfect parents who have all the right answers, which means you might struggle to answer hard questions. However, knowing how to start hard conversations with children is crucial as it will help them understand that they can come to you about anything, even the difficult stuff. Keep reading to learn how to start these types of conversations.
Prepare in Advance
If your child recently experienced something difficult, such as the loss of a grandparent or bullying, then you may know that a hard conversation is coming. Try to prepare for this conversation in advance; learn from a more authoritative source, such as a children’s therapist or counselor, so you can provide as much information as possible throughout the conversation. Practice staying calm in case your child reveals information that you find shocking or concerning. Staying calm and withholding large emotional responses will help your child feel more confident throughout the conversation.
Provide Listening Ears
Sometimes, you might be tempted to breeze through a hard conversation by keeping a distraction nearby. However, your child needs to know that you’re actively listening, especially if they’re the ones initiating the conversation. If your child suddenly brings up a difficult topic while at home, don’t continue your activity, such as watching TV. Move away from distractions as soon as you can and focus your attention on your child and the conversation.
Pace the Conversation
Children often have short attention spans and are still learning the correct vocabulary for different situations and emotions. For example, if your special needs child is bullied at school, they may struggle to explain who is instigating the bullying because they call all of their classmates “friends.” Allow the conversation to continue as the child discloses the situation so you can focus on helping them. Give them a break before starting another conversation about how real friends treat each other.
Stay Neutral but Honest
As previously mentioned, staying calm and withholding your own large emotional response can help your child feel more comfortable discussing a hard topic with you. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t share honestly about the topic or situation. For instance, knowing how to discuss the Bible with your children means taking the time to honestly explain religious beliefs. Even if your family is secular, you shouldn’t dismiss religious curiosity, especially if your child has started asking. Provide honest answers to their questions without letting your own feelings on the subject get in the way.
Starting hard conversations with children is intimidating and often scary for parents. Knowing how to get started, from preparation to calming techniques, can help guide you through these conversations as your children grow. Continue to encourage their curiosity, even if it makes you uncomfortable, so you can help them become well-rounded individuals that are healthy and happy.
photo – Cottonbro Studio