From the time our children learn to talk, they are notorious for fearlessly asking tough questions. While we may be tempted to ignore or distract our children away from these difficult conversations, parents must be prepared to have these talks in a way that is gentle, communicative, and loving.
When it comes to discussions about divorce, co-parenting, and relationships, the answers are not always black and white. As much as we may wish we could give our kids all of the answers that their little hearts desire, it can be hard to know exactly what to say or how to go about saying it.
If you are a parent looking for some tips on how to have tough conversations with your kids, you are in the right place. In this article, we will talk about the 5 most important things to remember when discussing difficult or heavy topics with your children.
Note: these tips can be used for any aged child, but it is important to adjust how you approach these conversations to ensure that your communication is age-appropriate and can be understood.
5 Things to Remember When Having Tough Conversations With Your Kids
- Create a safe space.
If you have any control over the timing of when a tough conversation will happen, try to create a calm and peaceful environment that will help your child to feel comfortable. Every child is different, and you know your child best. Consider the following factors:
- Location- Choose a location that is private and familiar. If your child prefers indirect eye contact when having important conversations, perhaps the car or while on a walk is a great option for you. If your child likes a more direct approach, consider the dinner table, a bedroom, or while out at a restaurant. When possible, avoid having tough conversations in front of other people.
- Distractions- Avoid having TVs, screens, or radio playing in the background of whichever location you choose. You want to create an environment that encourages your child to focus on the task at hand and allows them to understand as much as possible.
- Time of day- Be mindful of when you are having heavy conversations. Aim to have them at times that allow opportunities for follow-up questions or continued talking. If possible, spend time doing another activity with your child after the conversation is complete, to allow time for a natural continuation of the conversation if necessary. Avoid having these conversations before bed, on the way to school, or at other times where you will be separated from your child immediately after. Separation can cause distress and disconnect for your child.
- Be honest.
Be honest with your child, no matter how difficult the situation. Doing so will show your child that you are trustworthy, which will help them to feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in this tough conversation with you.
- Stick to the facts.
When it comes to topics like divorce and relationships, there are obviously matters that are emotionally driven. Regardless of this, try to, as much as possible, keep conversations logical and fact-based. Never talk badly about a person that your child loves and has a healthy relationship with, as it can make the child feel confused and alienated.
- Encourage questions and conversation.
Conversations require two people. Avoid “spewing” information at your child while they silently try to receive and organize as much of it as possible. Encourage their participation.
- Remember that your child may take time to accept the information you give them.
No matter how perfectly your relay the conversation, your child is still a human being hearing impactful news for the first time. Allow them to listen, absorb, ask questions, and form an opinion on the matter- even if that opinion differs from your own.
By having open and honest communication with your child from a young age, you will foster a relationship of trust. This will benefit both you and your child as they grow, and it can create an irreplaceable relationship between the pair of you.
It may not feel easy in the moment, but it will definitely be worth it. You’ve got this!