How do you explain the devastation in Houston, the violence in Charlottesville and the fear of World War 3 breaking out in Japan?
How can you explain such things when you may not even understand them yourself? How can you calm your child’s fears?
What about when you move into subjects of sexuality, drugs, or religion?
These are all vastly different topics but they are all part of the real life of children in today’s society. This generation of children cannot be shielded from real life subjects such as the kids of generations with no internet, Twitter or Facebook could be.
Real life topics will face your children on the computer, television, and even in a book that a teacher may read to the class at school. They may hear an adult, or another child speaking, about a sensitive subject at school, in the supermarket or any other time that they are out in public.
Our job as parents is to make sure that our children are comfortable talking to us about these, and other, sensitive subjects. In this way we can protect our children because in this way we are controlling some of the dialogue.
The tone of a conversation between child and parent is set by the parent. The parents fears, beliefs and approach are what shapes the conversation. First and foremost, it is important to understand this before leading into a difficult topic.
Choose a time and place to talk. Do not start a difficult conversation right before bed. Everyone is tired, there may be concern about bedtime and it can place negative thoughts in someones head as they nod off to dreamland. Likewise, difficult conversation.
If there is more than one child consider having these talks with them individually.
Pick someplace to talk that is relaxed. There is no right answer for whether that place is on the couch, at the table or even out for a walk. Simply pick somewhere that you feel your child will be the most likely to open up to you. Do not pick someplace where you can not fully concentrate on the conversation, such as when driving a car.
As a parent, you will need to collect your thoughts and emotions. Allow your child to feel their emotions but do not force your feelings on them. If they do not seem to be upset about something that you feel they should be do not react emotionally. Make sure that they feel secure and loved. Express your trust and allow them the comfort of knowing that they can talk about their feelings no matter what those feelings are.
Speak to your child about your values and your belief system. Be clear on boundaries and which ones they absolutely cannot break. Do this with love and a calm tone. If you are doing this before there are any troubling behaviors on their part, or the part of their friends then your child is not being disciplined so do not make then feel as if they are. If you need a moment to compose yourself then advise your child that it is an emotional subject for you and that you need a moment.
Ask your child questions so that you can get a handle on what their level of knowledge is about the subject at hand, what they want to know and how much they can handle. Ask them if they have additional questions. If they seem satisfied and have no additional questions then you have likely reached the point of the knowledge they can handle at that time. You, or your child, can always bring the subject up again at another time.
During your talk, whether about sex, politics or anything else do not be afraid to admit that you do not know something. What your child needs most of all is love, understanding and to know that they can trust you. They do not need you to have all the answers. They do need you to make them feel safe.
We cannot shield our children from all topics. Having conversations about difficult subjects is a necessary part of parenthood. When handled correctly these conversations can bring you closer, create a deeper understanding of your child’s world and help them to make decisions that you can be proud of.
Dr. Elise Cohen Ho is a Holistic Relationship & Business Coach which means in addition to working on improving relationships (parenting, romantic, community) and helping you grow your business she will also help you to live a healthier and more fulfilled life. Learn more here: www.askdrho.com