7 Essential Steps to Having Difficult Conversations with Kids

You see your child crying or upset. If you are lucky, you get an answer easily. If you are not, you flounder around trying to figure out what went wrong. You work hard on talking to your children about the solution but are you seeing this difficult situation as an opportunity to teach your child values that last them a lifetime?

When a child is disturbed, it often feels like the world is falling down around them. All problems seem like an ocean of moments that they are not equipped to steer through. It’s our job as parents to help rudder them to safety.

I’ve had a number of difficult conversations with my children, such as different skin color, bullying, friends who are mean, moving houses and more. Apart from being hard on all of us to discuss these topics, the discussion has always been illuminating. These very conversations helped them to nurture strong values.

The most difficult, though, are the conversations that we ourselves have to bring up. For most of our other circumstances, the kids were pretty much already prepared for. But the most harrowing one was moving houses. It was a decision we did not take lightly. We knew it was going to be hard for our son to move schools. He did not take it well. When we finally ended up drawing a contact, we ensured we took all his toys with us into the new house which as it turns out was his major concern.

Through all the heart to hearts we had, I learned the following that helped me in all of them.

Start at a Time When Kids Are Relaxed

Even if your child is upset at first, you need to remember that a child needs to feel secure. So start with a hug. Don’t make the discussion seem like a “conversation.” Talk about it casually. If your little one has been crying over something, before going with their flow, think about what they really need first. Maybe it’s just some love or reassurance. Don’t just dive into telling them what to do.

Research the Topic in Question

Our advice is always based on our own experiences. But times have changed. Also, there are often things we are just not aware of. Like the time kids were making fun of my son’s last name. I wondered what I would say if I was the parent of a guilty child who had done the teasing. It would be wonderful to do some research on the most common Indian last names and go over them with my child. Also, when it comes to topics that can be scientifically explained like why our skin colors are different, we should be able to use the right terminology with our children, too. We can research what other parents are saying about bullying, goal setting, racism, diversity, and how to handle these sensitive topics. 

Listen and Address Concerns

Again, our minds work differently than our children’s. Make sure you really listen to their concern. It took us a good hour before we were able to get out of our son that his main concern in moving was “what would happen to all our old stuff?”

Give Them Actionable Choices

Don’t just tell them what to do. Give your child ample choices in how they can act given in any situation, like dealing with bullies. Or talking to people who are being mean. Play pretend games and let them know different ways they can react, educate, or self-moderate for success.

Find a Positive in the Situation

If we look hard enough, we can find something good that comes out of any tough spot. Like when someone is being mean, we can learn who our true friends are. Helping our children see that the worst situation can be looked at with a better attitude can help imbibe positivity.

Find Books

Books about any given topic are wonderful to read for the children and then discuss. Books can help children understand the world better and know that there are others out there facing the same situations.

The Conversations Never End

Remember, such teachable moments are not a one-time thing. We even now, at random times, discuss how difficult moving was and how it is more important that we will always be together as a family. My experience in the Gulf War is often talked about in learning that family, not things, are important. Children need re-emphasis on every subject. The actionable steps need to be reiterated so that they are absorbed.

I wish you a lifetime of love with your children and may difficult conversations you have with them bring confidence and courage.

Related Posts:

Back To School Parenting Tips

Teaching Our Kids It’s Okay To Stand Out At School

25 Ways To Tackle Racism

Image sources: Pixabay and Pexel except for book image (Credit: Author).

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Aditi Wardhan Singh

Founder & Chief Editor at Raising World Children LLC
Aditi Wardhan Singh is the author of the bestselling book "Strong Roots Have No Fear". A book for empowering children to thrive in our multicultural world. Aditi writes about positive parenting with a focus on cultural sensitivity. She is the founder and chief editor of the online platform by parents for parents - Raising World Children. The RWC initiative teaches parents to raise global thought leaders. Aditi is also a regular contributor for the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, RichmondMomsBlog, Writer Mom, Desh Videsh Magazine and more.
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