Parenting Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Hard Things

We’re halfway through the calendar year, and so far 2020 has proven to be quite a doozy. The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown us all for a loop and it was followed up with civil unrest and a lot of public conversation about racial inequality and police brutality. We are still wading through uncharted territory, and no parenting tips could have prepared us for what has unfolded. To begin, it should be said that you are doing an excellent job, and the fact that you’re interested in parenting tips to help you move through this season shows how much you care. None of us has all of the answers for how to navigate life’s complexities, but all of us can do our best.
By now your children have hit you with a barrage of hard questions like “where do babies come from?” And “what does God look like?” Yet, it never seems to get any easier, does it? It’s common for parents to struggle with how best to talk about complex and painful topics with their kids. We understand your concern so we’ve compiled a list of parenting tips to help you navigate this complicated season with your children.

Encourage an Open Dialogue
Mastering this first of our parenting tips will smooth the way for each of the tips to follow. Communication is a vital element in relationships, and it is particularly helpful when teaching your children to navigate hard situations. Start cultivating an open dialogue as early as you can. This will look different for children of all ages, but when you start early its easier to get your family into the habit of having productive conversations about the things going on in the world. Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your children also allows you to determine what information they’re already aware of. Whether we are talking about current affairs or social issues within their school the more you know the better. When there is not an open dialogue at home, children are more likely to seek the information they’re looking for from other sources like their classmates or the Internet.

So what does this look like? Start by asking them questions about themselves, about the world around them, and how they feel about both of those things. Allow the conversation to unfold naturally and do your best not to overreact to the responses. If your children think that whatever they tell you will result in a negative consequence they’ll be less likely to talk to you in the future.

Always Tell the Truth
As parents, it’s our natural inclination to protect our children from the harshness of life. But, it’s impossible to completely shield them from reality. Whether you tell them the truth or not, they’ll likely find out somehow. Your children need to know that they can depend on you to always tell them the truth within reason. Be realistic about how much of the truth each child can handle. The information you share should vary depending upon each child’s age, their general sensitivity, and how emotionally mature they are.

An important factor in truth-telling is admitting what you don’t know. It’s not easy for kids to realize that mom and dad don’t know everything, but it’s the truth. Even though none of us knows what the future holds with this current pandemic, there are a lot of things you do know. You know that there are things that your family can do to control your exposure to germs. You know that there are ways for your children to connect with their friends even when they’re not able to be face-to-face. Lead your children by example and allow them to see a strong parent figure who is comfortable admitting the times when they don’t know the answer. If you need more parenting tips in this arena the internet is full of excellent ideas.

Acknowledge Their Feelings
A lot of these big concepts are hard for children to understand. How do you explain a pandemic to a seven-year-old? Imagine the fear and anxiety you have about the future, in the heart of a young child who can’t understand what’s going on. No matter how all of those feelings come bubbling up, it’s important that you acknowledge how your children are feeling in the moment and not try to explain it away. Think of a moment in your life when you were afraid, stressed, or sad, and someone said: “get over it.” It’s a terrible feeling. One of the most important parenting tips we can share with you is to not let your own discomfort cancel out your children’s right to their own feelings. Ideally, you’d like to fix the hard things in the world for them, but in lieu of that start by acknowledging how they feel and helping them walk through it.

Teach Them to Think Critically
OK, this last of our parenting tips is a tough one. Each of these issues is so complex and highly emotional, and some of those intricacies are too much for a young mind to comprehend. That said, this is a great time in a child’s life to teach them to think critically. As adults, we have to remember all the time not to believe everything we read online or hear on TV. In order to make the right decisions for our families, we take into consideration the facts as we understand them, think critically about them, and then decide. You can begin today by helping your child think critically about the things that they are hearing in the world. They may not be able to parse out scientific facts, but perhaps they can start to ask hard questions that lead them to complex answers.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart and every generation has its own struggles but they have to guide their children through. A global pandemic, racial inequality, and political divisiveness just happen to be the struggle du jour. But, we’ve said it before and will say it again, as a member of the St. Barnabas School family, you don’t have to be alone in this. The wisest of all parenting tips is to find community and support wherever possible. We believe parenting out to be a group activity, and we want you to know that we’re here to support you. For more of our parenting tips follow along on our blog, and feel free to contact our office anytime.
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