It’s been a tough few weeks for many of us in the US. After years of answering reporters’ questions on talking to kids about scary topics, I was confronted with the reality of telling my children our own friends and neighbors had been gunned down, in a room where the boys and I had been just a week earlier. Those conversations and experiences have affected – and continue to shape – our family and our community.
In the last few weeks I have spoken to many different media outlets to help parents know how to discuss these tragedies with their kids, all informed by tough conversations at home with my own children. Here is a recent interview I did last week with KTLA in the aftermath and I hope it helps. I know these situations are so hard to talk about, but they do present an opportunity to build resilience in our kids. For a deeper look at the good we can do our children in these situations, I hope you’ll look at this piece in the Washington Post.
Overall, keep these steps in mind:
- Give yourself a minute. Take a breath, lean on a friend or family member you can count on to handle your emotional response first. It’s better if we can feel a little more calm before we talk to our kids.
- Ask a question. If you approach a child or teen about a big topic, it’s best to ask what they heard or know or believe before you launch into a lecture or information dump.
- Listen to their answer. This will give you a better sense of where that child is, what they’re ready to hear and what they already think.
- Give a little information and wait. Don’t overwhelm yourself or that child, give a fact or two and wait to see what they ask or say.
- Give both of you a break. These can be short conversations, and if the topic changes quickly that is alright.
- Check back in. Tough ideas get processed over time, so we can’t talk about these things just once. Even if your child or teen doesn’t mention it again, be sure to ask how they’re doing or what they’re thinking about it a few hours or a day or so later.
If you’re wondering whether or not to talk to your kids about such things I contributed some age-by-age guidelines to discuss shootings with kids on Today Parents and it’s one way to consider when and how to help your own family.
Remember, you are the expert on your own family and when making the ultimate decision to have these tough conversations with your kids is yours. These are just a few guidelines I wanted to share.
There are always going to be situations that your kids are exposed to in the news that we can’t shelter them from. Our job as parents isn’t to shelter our kids from the realities in front of them, but build resilience in them so they are prepared to handle situations that come their way.
I also invite you to check out my Talking to Your Kids About Tough Topics ecourse. This course is helpful for parents of kids of all ages and has videos, resources and printables to help you along the way.
What are you struggling with when it comes to talking with your kids about tough topics? Share in the comments below!