5 Ways I Talk to My Kids About Uncomfortable Topics
As soon as kids are able to talk they start asking some uncomfortable questions. As they get older and continue on their quest for knowledge, the questions only become deeper and more insightful. I make it my goal to not lie to my kids but at the same time shield them from realities that they may not be ready for quite yet. My kids are three and six so I am not an expert, but these five tactics are what I use to answer my kids' uncomfortable questions.
#1 Create a Distinction
When it comes to uncomfortable questions, there are few more uncomfortable than those of money. I grew up constantly making life choices based on my parent's economic situation which is not something that I ever want for my kids. I also have a child who displays anxiety traits so she tends to worry about stuff that six-year-olds shouldn't worry about, like the current political climate. When she starts to ask me about something we can afford or something that she has undoubtedly heard me say about politics or whatever, I am quick to create the distinction that I am the parent and she is the kid. I tell her that she needs to worry about being a kid and doing kid stuff and let me worry about all that other stuff.
#2 Ask Them First
When talking to kids adults would be better served by asking more and explaining less. A lot of times my kids will ask questions that may be off the beaten path, but upon further investigation, it turns out that they just don't have the words to ask the question that they actually want an answer to. By asking kids questions about their question (e.g. Why are you asking that question? Where did you hear about that?) you will not only get to the root reason for the question, but you will be inadvertently teaching them problem solving skills and finding their own answers.
#3 Only Answer What Needs to Be Answered
As adults we tend to overshare as a reaction to being uncomfortable. This leads us to go down the rabbit hole further than we ever needed to go. Often times the simplest answers are the ones that your little ones are looking for so start there with a solid surface answer. For instance, when they ask where babies come from you respond with "mommy's tummy," and that answer may just be sufficient enough. Too many times parents think they need to have a birds and bees talk with a kid who is barely out of diapers.
#4 Steer the Conversation
Controlling a conversation is not the same as lying to your child. If the topic is something you are not ready to breach simply take steps to steer the conversation in a different direction. Answer their question with a question that leads them in a different direction, or simply let them know that right now is not the time for that question and then lead them on to another topic. Though this is not exactly the same as lying, I try not to use this tactic often.
#5 Tell the Truth
Kids are not as naive as we think they are, and it only hurts them when we pretend like they are only children and not able to understand adult things. They don't need to know extra details about the truth, but they deserve to know the truth. Never forget that they will eventually find out the truth about everything, and they will inevitably think back to the times that they were lied to.
I am not the perfect parent, and this is by no means the perfect way to deal with every situation. These are only suggestions that I have adapted as the parent of kids who ask a lot of questions about everything. My kids have had the unfortunate luck to loose two grandparents and a bonus grandparent in their short lives which has lead to some uncomfortable questions. They also know people who have living situations unlike their own (single family, same sex parents, et al.) which leads to all kinds of questions that I am never ready to answer. I feel that by employing these tactics I am doing my best to raise kids who will become self-thinking, compassionate, and emotionally competent adults.