Big Issues, Small People: Talking To Children About Adult Concerns

There are certain conversations parents never want to have with their children. In some cases – like “the talk” – it’s unavoidable; your children need to be educated about sex as they grow up. And while they may already be aware of the types of videos on sites like Tube v Sex (depending on their age), they need to know the basics and so giving them the birds and the bees talk is of the utmost importance as they get older.

However, there are other issues that can cause more tension and controversy. How do you talk to kids about addiction or about having a family member in jail? These conversations are important, even if adults don’t want to have them. Try these approaches to those hard conversations.

Growing Into The Conversation

Sex and human sexuality are issues that all children need to learn about as they grow up and the conversation should really begin earlier than most adults would like to think. Rather than thinking about “the talk” as a one time event, prepare yourself to talk about sex and sexuality with your child in age appropriate ways as they grow. This should happen over and over throughout the years.

Early ways to discuss sexuality might involve discussing adult intimacy as special time between grown-ups who love each other. This may happen to prime your child to give you time alone or when that dreaded moment happens – your young child walks in on you having sex. As they grow, introduce new aspects of the conversation and provide new resources your child can reference beyond the conversation.

Addressing Addiction

Just say no campaigns tend to reach children early, so it can be hard for young children to understand why a parent couldn’t say no when they know that’s the correct thing to do, and unlike with an adult, you can’t just hand over a copy of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas to explain the experience of addiction. No, the conversation will be harder than that.

Don’t let this fact be a barrier to having an open conversation about addiction in your household, however. This can be a good opportunity to discuss how even adults don’t always make the right decisions and about how we have to be understanding of how people may act when they are dealing with an addiction, even if it is unexpected or scary. It’s more important to be honest than to be perfect.

Coping With Incarceration

Many more children have an incarcerated parent than you may realize. Luckily, this means that there are resources out there that can help you talk about the issue in appropriate ways. For the youngest children, there are even resources made by Sesame Street meant to help children understand what it means to know someone in jail. Older children do best with a clear conversation about consequences, rules, and laws and to talk about what it will be like if they are allowed to visit. Be clear and don’t set up false expectations about a tenuous legal situation.

No matter the issue, children are always better prepared to have hard conversations than we tend to think they are. With a finely tuned moral compass and a penchant for black and white thinking, children may ask difficult questions, but don’t be deterred. By being direct with them, you open lines of communication that will be valuable now and in the future.

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