Talking to Children About Difficult Topics
How often do you find yourself in a situation when you have no idea what to tell your child?
“Mommy, why is the sky blue?”
“Daddy, why do we have to cook the food before we eat it?”
Children have a naturally curious mind and it’s normal for them to ask bountiful questions!
But, there comes a time when even parents become speechless at the questions posed by their child.
“Mommy, why does that person look like that?”
“Daddy, what is that *political* sign talking about?”
In a research conducted by a nonpartisan fact tank, The Pew Research Centre, found that 48% of parents with children under the age of 5 years say that their child has interacted with a tablet computer while 55% of them have used a smartphone. The same group of parents are both relieved and concerned with the amount of screen time as it provides both entertainment and education for their children but also, age inappropriate content.
Young children are impressionable and observe through their daily interactions. Some parents might find it difficult to digest how fast their child is growing, while others may be more shocked about the information they bring home.
Speaking on difficult subjects such as racism, global warming and environmental issues and the current pandemic can be a difficult issue in itself for parents. First and foremost, we want our children to be safe and feel safe but our parental instincts naturally kick-in and we want to shelter our children from the calamity of the world. And as much as we try our hardest to shield our children’s innocence from the realities of today, we cannot elude these sensitive topics for long.
As parents responsible for raising the next generation of leaders for the new world, it’s vital that we prepare our children for a better future, and not our own world.
Tackling these subjects would take a different approach with children of the appropriate age. As young children do not have the life experiences to relate with some of the more complex topics, it further becomes a barrier when explaining these topics.
What can you do?
- Limit their media consumption.
While the news can be very informative, it is targeted towards an audience that can readily digest information and not towards children who have yet to have a firm grasp of the world.
- Provide a safe space.
Reassure children that they are safe while speaking on the subject. If you are more open to having a conversation with your child with regard to these topics, first and foremost, ensure the child that they are safe and it’s always okay to speak with mom and dad (or a trusted family member) about troubling issues. While some children are more open to speak with their parents, some children are more quiet and tend to shy away from having a conversation.
- Acknowledge feelings and validate them.
You might think that a certain reaction is to be expected from a certain situation. Children, on the other hand, may think otherwise. A child’s social prowess is shaped by their environment. Guide your child to the appropriate reaction but allow them a safe space to feel what they may feel.
- Breakdown an issue into simpler terms
The pandemic is a perfect example of breaking down an issue into simpler terms as the school, government and many public areas are educating children about the importance of hygiene and social distancing. Build the information up from the small foundation of knowledge they may have and perhaps, you can pique their interest in sciences and medicine.
- Reflect on yourself.
Are you yourself using biased terms? When it comes to sensitive issues such as races, religion and the likes, it’s best to avoid describing a person’s ethnicity, sexual identity, weight, financial status, and so on unless it’s relevant to the issue.
Talking about difficult topics is not a breezy task! But it’s our responsibility to be our children’s guide to the universe (or perhaps, just their universe).