Small Kids & Hard Topics: 8 Helpful Tips For Tough Discussions

Not all topics are born equal.

Talks about dying tend to kill the mood a little bit 😅 (pun intended).

A few days ago, I had one of these talks.
With our 6-year-old.

You NEVER know when they ask about such things!

I’m a Christian, so I should have some good answers for him (about the afterlife and such…), but I was totally caught off-guard.

It’s not easy to pop something out on demand!

Here are some tips for talking about these tough topics
(now that I have had some time to prepare 😅).

Let Them FEEL You

It’s completely fine to show emotions. Kids need to learn that it’s okay (or even good) to have emotions.

Sometimes for us dads, it can be tough to know how to share our emotions, depending on our own childhood.

And some conversations we need to have with our kids are about really sad issues or things that make us angry!

We need to find the middle ground between bottling our feelings and letting too much out in front of our kids (it can be overwhelming for them).

Tell Them You’ll Think About How To Explain It

It’s better to bring it up later than offering “thin answers”.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know – let me think about it.”

Let the topic brew a little bit and get back to it. They’ll feel you take it seriously.

This gives you time to prepare!

Then, choose a quiet time to come back to the topic. Not all conversations are for the whole family.

Avoid Telling Lies To Answer The Question

It might feel easier to twist the truth (or avoid it altogether) when kids ask really uncomfortable questions.

But it usually isn’t helpful.

Family topics (like death or divorce), issues in your immediate community, and spiritual questions are really important to answer truthfully.

For our kids, these are part of the foundations of their sense of self.

And our goal as dads is to raise kids with strong self-belief.

We don’t need to give complex answers; generally, our kids just need pretty straightforward information.

But on the flip side…

Don’t Over-Simplify Things

There is a fine line between actually teaching them something and sweeping the BIG topics under the rug.

Avoid keeping your answer so simple that you end up confusing your kid more.

This has helped me:

  • Use simple words – “I have some sad news. Granny died today.”
  • Name and validate any feelings – “I know you are sad, I am very sad too.” Or, “this also confuses me”.
  • Prepare your kid – “In a few days, a lot of people will come to our house and we will tell stories of how special Granny was.”

In fact, you could use this “method” for many different kinds of challenging topics.

Children look to us when they are afraid or anxious. Our job is to help them feel secure (even if we are confused or afraid).

Ask Your Kid Questions

When kids ask us shocking questions, it’s probably best not to answer right away. Try to understand first.

Ask open-ended questions and determine what they already know about the issue.

  • What has made you think about this?
  • How did this happen?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • Why do you say …?

I find that a simple “one on one” activity like playing Legos or going for a walk on the beach is a good way to help my kid to open up.

Limit Age-inappropriate Content

There are some BIG things going on in the world.

Some information and current affairs we can’t shelter our children from – we must face these head-on.

But there are some challenging conversations that we can avoid altogether.

Dads, we need to be strategic – what is in our control?

  • Access to Social Media
  • Age-restricted movies and games
  • Unsupervised time with much older kids

There are some great tools out there to help us keep our kids safe in a media-driven world.

You can set parental controls on Netflix, Apple and Android Devices, and many music streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music.

You can also enable GoogleSafe Search, which will block explicit content and images on your browser.

Keep Your Cool

Hard discussions are not always because of kid questions; sometimes, it’s because of kid behaviors.

BIG reactions can fuel a behavior or make our kids feel ashamed. Neither of these is an outcome we want.

So if we spot our kid doing something they shouldn’t be – we need to keep calm and not give knee-jerk reactions.

Half the challenge of these conversations can be overcome by keeping our own emotions in check. I know from personal experience.

  • Speak slowly and softly
  • Try to understand better (read up)
  • Ask for their input to overcome the challenging behavior
  • Talk about consequences

We shouldn’t expect too much of our kids – they are still kids! Their minds are still under construction.

“Dad” needs to be the safest place for kids. We can be unconditionally loving and firm at the same time.

Reach Out For Help

Tough conversations with our kids can bring up our own hidden emotions like fears, biases, or anger.

Some topics just have us stumped. And we have nothing to offer.

There is no shame in asking for help. Hey, that’s why I started this blog!

Pro-Dad Tip: After you’re done consulting “Dr. Google” (which we all do), I really recommend that you get in touch with a trusted friend or a counselor in your area. An outsider can offer a unique perspective.

Thanks for reading.

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