We live in interesting times, and one of the challenges of parenting in the 21st century is finding sensitive, but honest ways to discuss world events and big issues with our kids. Go online after a natural disaster, an act of violence, a controversy, or any other human tragedy, and you’re bound to see pieces that read “How To Talk To Your Kid About…”
We’re on board with talking to kids about big questions, even when they’re difficult to discuss. However, we’d like to suggest that it may be better to tackle the difficult stuff before there are specific incidents. What’s more, there are ways to do it without scaring a little thinker.
Here’s our advice:
- Never turn down an opportunity to discuss a big question with a child, even if it’s a difficult one. Even small children will ask questions that are related to politics, ethics, and the nature of reality. In chatting about them, you send the message that you’re available for a dialogue, and that they can trust you, even when the topic is a touchy one.
- Keep the discussion open. It’s always tempting to fill in the blanks with our own points of view, but it’s really important to help children feel that their views are important too, and that when it comes to difficult questions, there isn’t always just one answer.
- Record these conversations in some format, whether it be as a quick journal entry, a hand-drawn picture, or an audio-video recording on your phone. When a difficult world event comes up for discussion, you can always go back to them, and say “Remember when we talked about this before?”
- Most importantly, talk about these things in the abstract, before they turn up as actual events. Have general discussions about fairness, equality, happiness, power, and leadership on a regular basis. When an actual world event occurs, you’ll be able to apply those discussions to a real-world example, and you won’t be starting from scratch.
It’s natural for us to try and shield our kids from misfortune and tragedy, but with the media being as prevalent and accessible as it is today, that’s a tall order for any parent. Getting a discussion going before there’s an immediate need for it not only softens the blow when a child hears about a specific incident, but also empowers them overall, so that they feel that their voice is heard, and that their thoughts about it matter. The time it takes to lay a good thinking foundation is worth it.