Being isolated from one another during the pandemic has been hard. Navigating our return to the outside world is harder. Coming to terms with the darker parts of our history, and dealing with recent tragedies is perhaps the hardest. If you’re a parent, especially one with small children, you’ve probably been at a loss for words lately. Who on earth has adequate explanations for everything humans are going through at the moment?
For better or for worse (maybe a little of both), your kids probably won’t stop asking questions that make you uncomfortable, nor should they. Even very young minds pick up on our signals, and want to know what we know. If you’re unsure how and when to start a conversation about the many difficult topics facing us at the moment, you’re not alone, and phrases like “not now” or “never mind” don’t have to be your go-to responses. Not only is okay to talk about really big (and tricky) questions with your kids, but there are ways to go about it that will be beneficial in the long run.
Here are some suggestions:
- Start general. Kids don’t need to know the details of events and world issues. You can have conversations about equality, justice, fairness, empathy and love in the abstract, so that when they do hear about something real (and difficult), you’ll already have a framework for discussions.
- Chat in short bursts. A few minutes here or there is fine, and you can always revisit a conversation later on. Don’t take a short attention span as an indication of a lack of interest or understanding.
- Listen and take them seriously. Even small children are amazingly insightful and perceptive. Thank them for sharing, and tell them you hope you can talk again soon. They’ll learn that they can count on you to think big with them, and they’ll learn they can come to you with questions and concerns.
- Open up different avenues of expression. Talking is great, but so is singing, writing, colouring, painting, dancing, role-playing, or building. There are lots of ways for a child to tell you what they think.
- Call for backup. Find a great book, a movie, an app, a song, a cartoon, or any other resource that addresses big questions and difficult issues. If you find that you don’t have the words, borrow someone else’s. That’s what they’re there for.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to hold space for dialogue with your child. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and whether you choose to tell them about particular issues, or just explore general ideas, you’ll be doing them a favour, and establishing trust with them.