10 Steps To Talk To Your Kids About Hard Topics

Being a parent is hard work.  It’s not easy. We all have this vision in our heads of what we want our perfect family to “be like” which, in all honesty, makes the day-to-day struggle of actually raising kids seem even more difficult.  It is so hard to just be in the moment rather than striving for some storybook future.

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Happy marriage.  Kids laughing. Beautiful sunsets.  No fighting. Joy. Bliss.

The reality of day to day life is SO different.  You are trying to pay the bills. You are trying to balance having a life with supporting the life of your kids.  You are trying to figure out how to raise the kids that will match the vision you’ve created in your head. You may have a spouse, other family, money challenges, aging parents…..the list goes on. 

There are SO many things to balance in a single day.  Oh, and don’t forget self care! 

You and I know the reality that life is hard.  And, this vision we create for ourselves is an impossible one to reach.

We want our kids to grow up with the right balance of appreciating what they have with just having fun...they are just kids after all!

It is so easy to get caught up in all this stuff that the end result is we do NOT make time to focus on cultivating gratitude and kindness.  The very skills we ALL say we want our kids to have, as the research shows.  

It’s also easy to say “I don’t want to talk about this” with my kids or “I don’t know how to talk about this.”  But, we have too!  

Parents!  We cannot leave this to school clubs, teachers or other adults.  It must be clear to our kids that kindness, gratitude and acceptance of others is a value in YOUR family and the only way they get that is through your role modeling it.  

Sure, we want our schools, extracurricular activities, and other organizations to incorporate the practice of these skills into their curriculum.  

But, the foundation of raising kind kids is that parents SHOW them how to do it.  How to be kind. How to accept others. How to be grateful.

This means YOU, the parent or caregiver, has to talk about tough topics with your kids.  They need to hear from you that it matters to understand how others walk through this life and experience it differently than they do.  

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox and share 10 easy steps on how to talk to your kids about difficult topics.  This could be talking about differences, acceptance, race, cultures, homelessness...well, any issue really.  Pick one and just start talking.

  1. Prepare your child for talking about a difficult conversation.  “Hey kiddo, I’d like to talk to you about how people are different and how these differences make them unique?  Sound good? Let’s spend a few minutes talking after dinner.”

  2. Try to remove distractions so that you and your child(ren) can be fully present for the conversation.

  3. Show empathy to your child however they show up to the conversation.  If they don’t want to be there, ask them a good time to have the conversation.  Note: you are not giving them a pass, just asking when they can be fully present.

  4. Keep your introduction brief and maybe include a book, story, or video to help give them some context for the conversation.

  5. Emphasize your values as a family:  “It is a value in this family that we respect other people and one of those ways is [understanding differences as strengths/showing kindness toward others/helping others].”

  6. Answer their questions openly and honestly. Just answer the question being asked

  7. If talking about a difficult topic that might make them scared, be sure to make your child feel safe.

  8. Talk about ways they can help.

  9. Be age appropriate in your response and speak at their level.

  10. Follow your child’s lead - if they are disengaging, don’t force it.  If they have a ton of questions, answer them!

Whether you follow these steps or not, it’s mostly about you showing up and saying “this is important.”   Follow your heart and your gut when you are talking to your kid, be fully present, and really just, well, talk!

Want to take it a step further?  Check out The Kindness Crate. Each crate provides a roadmap to tackle a different theme (ahem - hard topic), such as child hunger, homelessness, or celebrating differences.  Then, there is a service experience for you and your family to do good together. It’s all there. You don’t have to worry about a thing.

I’d love to hear from you! What topics do you struggle with the most when talking to your kids?