Whomever has said parenting is easy obviously doesn’t have children. It isn’t. Everything about life that may seem easy can be a struggle to explain to a child. I don’t want my kids growing up hearing “Because I said so.” or “That’s just how it is.” as the answer to every question they ask.
Scott and I have always felt it was important to be honest with them about things. Yes, they enjoyed the secrets of Santa Claus and other kid-related topics, but we also felt it was important to be truthful about real issues such as death.
Trying to explain death to a child is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary.
We try to make a point of taking advantage of time together and have real conversations with our girls. Often, we broach these subjects during family dinners. As an example, health and well-being subjects become natural segues while we dine. Sometimes a board game helps start a conversation related to war, science or whatever other theme the game involves. TV shows and movies are also perfect for introducing a subject to open a door to talk to your kids. We make the most of these opportunities to create a productive dialogue.
But the reality is… there is a constant struggle to educate, inform and advise. From the time they are tiny and consistently inquiring “what’s that?” to teenage years and adulthood when they learn about more serious subjects involving money, laws, politics and love, there is an ever-changing canvas that parents find themselves painting alongside their children.
So how do you talk to your kids, regardless of their age? Here are some tips.
Talk about anything.
Be open to discussing anything and everything. All the time. When you tuck them into bed. When they come home from school. At the dinner table. In the car. During and after TV Shows. Listen as they make casual comments about something happening at school or with their friends. When you are open to conversation about simple topics, the more difficult topics are easier. Not easy, but easier.
Have an open door.
Let your kids know that any subject is on the table. If they have questions, let them ask with the confidence that it will be a judgement-free zone. How detailed you choose to discuss a topic is up to you, but find a way to answer their question so they know it’s okay. Over the years, we have discussed a variety of topics with our girls including politics, finances, sexuality, bullying and more. Sometimes they have difficult days and don’t want to talk, but eventually they open up. We hope that our open-door policy will provide them comfort so they can come to us when they need to.
Be a parent, not a friend.
I mentioned that you need to provide a judgement-free zone so kids can talk to you about anything. That doesn’t mean ignoring when action needs to be taken. Your child says they are being bullied and may ask you to promise not to tell the school or the teacher or the other parents or whomever. Use the same open-door discussion methods to explain that their health, well-being and interests are far more important and this isn’t something to be ignored. Learn tactful ways to address these issues.
Start the conversation.
If you are trying to talk about a particular subject, create the environment to start the conversation. One way to do this is to utilize current events and happenings such as news reports. A softer way is to sit and watch something on TV or Netflix. There are a variety of shows available that discuss various topics. Here are a few examples:
Topics to discuss with little kids:
Watch Ep. S1E1: Babee’s Room
Buzzbee and Rubee compete over who Babee (their new sibling) gets to room with. Mom and Dad must explain to Buzzbee and Rubee that Babee needs to grow up before she can share a room.
Watch Ep. S1E1: Puppies & Guppies/ Sorry We’re Closed Today
Larry and Laura Carrot want to adopt puppies but quickly learn it takes responsibility in order to watch over and care for a pet of their own.
Following the Rules
Watch Ep. S1E6: Stormy Weather/ Baba’s Adventure/ Rock Music
Mama tells Oona and Baba to stay close with a storm approaching. After ignoring her advice, Oona and Baba get stuck in a seagull nest during the heavy thunderstorms.
Topics to discuss with big kids:
Puss in Boots
Watch Ep. 113: Star
After Dulcinea feels like no one in the group needs her help, she tries to use a newly-discovered wishing star to show her worth — but fails — showing her that presence alone has lit up her friends’ lives all along.
Watch Ep. 103: Smart is the New Cool
After McKeyla insists she works better alone, she learns that four is better than one when her friends jump in to help her rescue the Prince from a botched space mission.
Watch Ep. 106: The Legend of El Explosivo
After getting grounded for sneaking off to Bobby Popko’s house, Jackson realizes he needs to stand up for what he knows is right and not give in to please his friends.
Topics to discuss with teens:
Social Media FOMO (That stands for Fear of Missing Out, in case you didn’t know.)
Girl Meets World
Watch Ep. 102: Girl Meets Boy
Cory challenges his class to unplug from their phones for a week. When Riley and her crush Lucas sit down to talk face-to-face, personal stories bring them closer.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Watch Ep. 104: Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!
Kimmy quickly realizes that she can’t fix her problems by simply “Buhbreezing” them away – real change comes from the inside.
Degrassi Next Class
Watch Ep. 101: #BootyCall
According to the kids of Degrassi Community School, butts are the new boobs. But Shay’s realization that “brains are the new butts” can speak to a number of body image insecurities.
Of course, Neflix is filled with documentaries that cover a wide variety of subjects and open the doors to conversations.
Having discussions with your kids can sometimes be embarrassing, sometimes difficult and often heart wrenching. No matter what age your children are or how you decide to start the conversation, it’s important that you do.
What subject is most difficult for you to discuss with your kids?