Recently a friend told me that her 8-year-old daughter had started asking her about death. "I'm going to die, are you going to die?" WHEN? "My friend, taken aback, changed the subject into something much more palatable:" Who wants ice cream? "
Talking to children about difficult topics is never easy. Whether it's sex, porn, divorce, drugs, technology, shootings at school, body image or death, it's normal for parents to fumble for the right words or stop the speech for some elusive "best time".
However, we do not want to leave our children's education and understanding of these subjects on the Internet, a random friend or child on the bus, right? So we have to make sure that our children have the information they need from a source that they (and, frankly, us) can trust.
When we talk about difficult topics with children, here are 7 things parents need to know:
It's never a big talk but a bunch of little ones during childhood: While people often refer to some of these conversations about "rites of passage" with a capital "The", as in "The Sex Talk" or "The Drugs and Alcohol Talk", there is no talk at all. Each of these important discussions in progress should start early in a child's life in appropriate terms at the age and then build and get more details in the next dialogues on the young's childhood. So if these types of talk make you feel uncomfortable, you'll have plenty of time to feel more relaxed while doing them.
It is not necessary to know all the answers: Some parents tell me that they do not know enough technical information or statistics on a subject. Other times, they are hampered on how to answer a complicated question. You do not need to know everything. At any time, if your child asks you for something you can not answer, you can stop looking for him, call a friend or simply ask for some time to think about it.
You can admit it's difficult or difficult to explain: After instructing calls or presentations, some parents will fight; "Can I just let you come and have this discussion for me? I can not say those words you said because it's too embarrassing!" I see. It can be inconvenient to discuss porn, sex or death with your children and can trigger talking about burning issues like school shootings or divorces. You can admit it and stress that even if it's not easy, it's still important to have the conversation.
You are the right person to discuss these topics: This is a reason why you, as your child's parent, are the best person to pass on this information rather than a casual educator, book or website – you know your child better! You know what your child can handle, you can read his tone and you can make sure that the conversation remains adequate for your age. You love your child and you want it to go well and you will be there for your child for follow-up questions and emotional reactions to the discussion. Even if there is no "perfect person" to engage in these difficult conversations with the child, it is not necessary to be perfect when you keep the door open, remain present and respond to the child's concerns and demands with sensitivity and honesty.
It is not a soliloquy: Remember, you're not talking to yourself. It is not necessary to prepare a monologue. These conversations are exchanges between two (or more) people in whom there is as much listening as we speak. Allow your child to ask questions and give you permission to ask questions. Provide space for silence, contemplation and connection.
You can think about it before: Sometimes we can deal with a subject with our child starting with our conditions. For example, you may have to tell your child that you and your spouse have been divorced or that a family member has died. Other times, the child introduces a conversation in the car, at dinner or before going to bed that seems to leave the left field. Here you are, brushing your teeth or mixing pasta and your child surprises you with "what does the word f mean?" Or "grandma is going to die?" When he is caught by surprise, it is OK to say; "I want to answer you, give me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and we can talk about it with cocoa, okay?"
You can have an afterthought: When I presented to a large group of parents and educators in Omaha, I told a story about how I responded to my daughter when she said innocently, at 4, that I had a "big butt". It was a moment that could easily have been horribly wrong but after taking a moment, we ended up in a memorable conversation about the incredible things our bodies can do and how all the bodies are beautiful. I could hear my audience holding their breath. It was then that I said; "Now you might think," oh shit! "I said the wrong thing when my son and I had that conversation!" Everyone laughed. Yes, we all mess up. I put my foot in my mouth as well. We all have! But the fact is that every day is a new day to try again. If you look back and think; "I could have said it better," come back and say it better! Parenting is the last thing to do.
The funny thing is that these difficult conversations seem more difficult just before you have them. Waiting to discuss sex, porn, death or other sensitive topics can make your stomach contract and feel your hands wet. But once we are in conversations, something beautiful happens. Our children open up. We connect. Conversations become easier.
And the greatest success? Our children know that we are willing to be the person they come to when they have a question or concern – no matter what the topic is. We earn our position as a reliable source. And if you're brave enough to have these conversations during the early years, when the stakes are low, you'll be lucky enough to be the person your child will come to later when the stakes are high. And this, my friends, will assert the inconvenience.
Robyn Silverman is a professional speaker, a specialist in the development of children and adolescents and leadership coaches. He has a podcast, "How to talk to children about anything." Find it on Twitter @DrRobyn.
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