10 Helpful Tips On Being Honest With Your Children
Imagine watching your favorite drama series with your seven-year-old. It is a clean show with no violence, sex, or nudity, purely a legal drama. But as you watch the Season 2 premiere, your daughter hears the word "Prostitution." She then proceeds to ask you in her sweet voice what the word means. The wave of blank spaces hits your head just like most parents or caretakers whose kids have ever asked difficult questions.
In the world today, children get smarter quickly with the plethora of information available to them through technology. However, as adults, parents, or caretakers, we need to be the first support line of defense for these kids. Whatever we tell them or explain difficult terms, it shapes their mindset and perception of the said topic and the views of people and the world.
Below are some examples of some tough questions that kids may ask their parent(s), caretaker(s), or an adult:
Where do babies come from?
How are babies made?
Why are you and my daddy (or mommy) mad at each other?
Mommy, how did you get that black eye?
Did grandma go to heaven?
Am I gonna die?
Are Santa Claus and the tooth fairy real?
Some parents or caretakers have done more harm than good in telling their children lies or not providing them with adequate information in an effort to safeguard them from the truth or reality. This dilemma has led children to a long hallway of physical abuse, shame, ridicule, and all sorts of trauma - all from not responsibly being told the truth in an age-appropriate manner at a young age.
Parents and caretakers, therefore, need to be able to understand reality and speak to kids about the difficult topics in the world today. These bright kids will inevitably come with a barrage of questions. You must provide them with age-appropriate answers without misleading or confusing them. If a parent or caretaker fails to responsibly provide the answers to their kids’ questions, then they run the risk of their kids getting false, misleading, or harmful information from someone else. That can have devastating consequences for kids.
Below are 10 tips you can use to talk to your children about difficult situations:
Find Out What They Know About The Topic
On hearing the question on prostitution, some parents or caretakers may begin to conjure different images that confuse the child further. It is important to know what the child understands about the topic first before explaining anything to them. Find out if they are aware of the complexities of the topic and explain.
Provide A Context
Parents should understand that children do not enjoy a summary of things; they want to understand what led to that issue being discussed; therefore, if you are trying to explain why an unexplainable man goes into a school and shoots kids, you could say the man had issues in his brain, which made him have bad thoughts and hurt people. Explain the perspective in the clearest and age-appropriate language and terms possible. Be sure to reassure the child that everyone does not go into schools and hurt others, but it is important for children and others to follow safety rules. That way, children may not become incapacitated by fear and negative thoughts that can interfere with their mental health.
Find Something They Can Relate With
You can use expressions like, "Remember when Uncle Alfred had an injury….". Using the things they can relate to as a point of reference in explaining the difficult terms can help them to comprehend situations better. However, you need to be careful so that your child does not falsely attribute issues to family members, places, or relatable things you have used. Explain to them what is appropriate versus inappropriate when addressing issues they can relate to.
Ask Them Questions
As much as you want to impart knowledge to your children about physical abuse, homosexuality, and other sensitive topics, you should give room for critical thinking. It is never too early to start. Also, open-ended questions can help them like "What did you think when you heard about it?" or “Why do you think these people acted this way?". It helps to develop the child's mind and ensures that they can hold their own in public or in school. Allowing children to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and being honest with you by asking them open-ended questions can allow you to instill and build a plethora of positive values and good communication skills between you, them, and others.
Wait For The Right Moment
It is best to plan to address questions and issues as quickly as possible. But if you are dealing with young teens, it is best to wait for the right moment to discuss questions and issues. Take your time to feel your children out; if the issues become visibly overbearing on them, you can step in. For young teens, pushing the discussion too much might end up scaring them away or making them feel overwhelmed. Therefore, relax, and talk to them normally until they are ready to share with you unless they may be in imminent danger. then, you must proceed with urgency and importance.
Give Them Room To Talk About Their Opinions
It is a different thing to ask them questions and allow them to speak their minds. Teenagers want to feel heard and understood, especially during difficult questions or topics. Let them know they can discuss their fears, opinions, and suggestions about the difficult issues with you. This will draw them closer to you no matter how difficult the issue is. Keep in mind when you were a teen and wanted others to relate to and understand you.
You can imagine how scared a kid would be after hearing some other students got shot in their school. What you can do is to reassure them that you will not let anything bad happen to them. Reassure your teenage children if you have any concerns and let them know you would always be there for them to provide possible solutions. As a parent, you should be able to assuage your children's fears without lying to them when answering their tough questions.
Pay Attention To Your Emotions
As a parent, there may be some upsetting news or rumors that you read or heard (about you) that ultimately may eventually get to your kids. You must maintain your cool and prevent any negative outbursts in front of your children when explaining sensitive issues. If you need some time to regroup before getting back to the question, then calmly let your kid know. There is no harm in doing so; revisit the issue when you have gathered yourself and thoughts. Do everything in your power to assure your child that they should not worry or be afraid of things that you are responsible for addressing and resolving. Positively communicate with your children once you get a grip on negative issues or let them know in an age-appropriate manner some positive steps that you have taken to make the situation better.
Talk To Your Children In A Serene Environment
Children can be curious but impatient at times. Imagine getting caught off guard by your seven-year-old with a question of homosexuality in the middle of a get-together. It would help if you tried to hold that question, planned for a private conversation, and addressed it when everywhere is calm. Now, this is where some parents may get it wrong. You cannot predict that your kids will not ask you a question in certain situations or places even after you have encouraged them to speak to you alone. You should be worried if they don't ask questions. But what you can do is share in the child's excitement and calmly explain why you can't answer the question right now. "Don't worry, when we get home, we will have your favorite snack and talk about it." This is a great way to add more excitement to the issue.
Admit When You Do Not Know
This may be one of the hardest things for parents or caretakers, aside from seeing their children go off to college out-of-state or live in a dormitory. But you should try to tell them the truth if you do not know about the issue. It is better than fabricating lies that push them into further darkness. They can become more inquisitive and therefore get the answer from the wrong sources. You can tell them you don't know much about the topic, give them a time frame, research it, and let them know your feedback ASAP.
Another thing you can do is seek the help of someone you trust that is knowledgeable about the issue. So, the next time the person comes by, your child’s questions can be answered.
The most important thing is to always do your best to tell your children the truth. First, however, determine whether the child can understand the truth. If not, break it down as simply as possible. Telling your child lies or partial truth may not be a good idea to help them distinguish truth from fiction. Be willing to be truthful with your child so that you can set good examples to encourage them to be honest with you.
Knorr, C. (2020 March 12). How to Talk To Kids About Difficult Subjects.
Common Sense Media. https://amp.commonsense.org/blog/8d577487-7747-447a-b34d-eca7ce8155ee