All parents know that children ask difficult questions as it is. But what do you do when the questions concern war, disasters, death, or misery? What do you answer? And how?
Here are five guidelines to follow as a parent.
How to talk to toddlers and kids about tough topics
1. Don’t be afraid to ask
It’s easy to dodge the hard stuff sometimes. But talking about tough topics, sad emotions and hard feelings can increase that important feeling of safety and security for your kid. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to open up the conversation, simply by asking about it. Raise the question of whether they have heard or seen anything during the day, or if there’s anything they are concerned about. It’s also a good idea to pay extra attention to how your child sleeps, behaves, or eats to pick up on any possible concerns.
2. Try to put feelings into words
Teaching children to navigate between feelings and put words to different emotions at an early age is an important part of their future development. Research shows that the more easily children can express both positive and negative emotions, the less likely they are to suffer from depression later in life. It is therefore important to listen to, validate and acknowledge the child’s feelings. And above all, to show that it’s okay to feel that way.
3. Answer questions honestly, but don’t go into all the details
Give simple, short answers to the difficult questions. As a parent, it is good to be well-read and have the facts at hand, to be able to give an honest, accurate, and understandable answer. Try to avoid going too much into detail. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have the answer or happen to give the wrong one. It’s totally okay to give the correct one later on.
4. Take your child’s concerns seriously, but stay hopeful
It doesn’t matter if the child’s concern is about war, global warming, or something else entirely. It’s always important to reassure the child and give them hope. Kids are better than you think at reading your feelings and potential worries, and can easily “catch” their parents’ emotions. That’s why you need to stay positive and stay hopeful.
5. Don’t forget to play, hang out and take care of each other
Both adults and children benefit from thinking about other things during difficult times, crises, or conflicts. Take time to be kind to each other, do fun things together, and spend time with each other. It’s important.