How to Talk To Children About Serious Subjects
Forget toilet training, bath time and table manners, one of the toughest parts of a parent’s life is when you have to get serious with the children and talk to them about difficult and mature issues. As a society, we like to keep our children sheltered and protected from some of the harsh realities of the outside world, but eventually that gets too difficult; so when the time comes, it’s best to be prepared.
Although you may find it awkward and uncomfortable at first, there are techniques and methods you should incorporate into your approach, in order you to talk to your children about serious issues more effectively. The way to handle this situation varies by age, so here are the best ways to handle these situations for different age ranges.
2–6 Year Olds
For children as young as this, it’s best to just try and avoid these difficult subjects coming up in conversation if you can help it. That’s because at this age, they still lack the life experience to understand the elements involved in complex and difficult topics. At this point, their whole life revolves around their primary relations—those with mom, dad, any siblings, and external family members. This means that their main concern is how issues are affecting these people, so as a parent, if you’re displaying a saddened or sensitive emotional state, your children will pick up on that and use it to inform their own behavior and mood.
To help children this age deal with serious subjects it’s best to limit their exposure to the news and distressing content. Be selective of the media they see, however if sensitive or serious material does slip through the cracks and starts to worry them, reassure them with kind gestures and words. By explaining that the important people in their world are safe, such as family members, friends, and themselves, then they are more likely to be settled.
When explaining complex situations, try and use simple language, and check your own bias when explaining situations as you don’t want to dictate and influence their opinion. Avoid mentioning ethnicity, class, or weight when describing people, as this can instil dangerous prejudices in the future.
7–12 Year Olds
Children at this age can read and write, meaning that they are more exposed to age-inappropriate content and could struggle when figuring out what’s fact or fiction. When dealing with serious situations at this age, wait for the child to come to you about it, as they are most likely to do so at this age. When they do, find out what they know about the subject as this can influence how detailed your response is.
In terms of dealing with death of a loved one, be sure to be sensitive of a child’s emotions and temperaments.
As they have little life experience, this may be the first time they’ve dealt with this feeling, and it can be a very hard situation for children to adjust to, but also don’t be angry if they seem uninterested, as this is how some children cope. Some children may feel compelled to go to a funeral to pay their respects, but be sure that they’re mentally mature enough for this, as some just want to go for the morbid fascination of the event. If they’re not mentally ready, a funeral can be truly emotionally distressing. You can put measures in place to ensure the funeral is child appropriate, where customizations such as a closed-casket funeral can be made by funeral directors in London.
Teens can be the hardest to talk to about these issues, due to how at this age many are independently engaged in media, meaning that there’s no input from parents on what they’re seeing. Furthermore, lecturing them on how they should view a tricky situation might not be effective, as plenty of teenagers have the belief that they know everything already.
It’s best to just quiz them on their ideas and ideologies to see if they can support their beliefs with facts and opinions. It’s also critical to admit to them when you don’t know have the answers yourself, but also be sure to share your own values, so that children at this age can use different opinions to make their own judgement call.