In a society where even small kids learn about certain horrific subjects, it is essential for parents to put things in the right perspective. As a parent, one of your most complicated jobs is talking to your kids about difficult subjects.
At times, it might be difficult to explain some of the issues related to drugs, crime, racism, violence, and other weighty issues. In the era of smartphones and live videos, it becomes crucial to take the lead and face these issues head-on.
While some might feel that it is a complicated task, addressing difficult issues helps your kids feel secure and even strengthens the bond that you have. It also educates them about things that happen in the world.
The world is full of many difficult topics, such as alcohol or drug abuse. Many parents do not want to give up their information-rich and dynamic culture. They want to engage in compassionate, yet frank conversations that help children create sense from things that appear senseless.
Here are some tips that parents can use to discuss difficult topics with kids that are as young as two years old. It is essential to learn how to explain the news to kids and explain issues to teens, tweens, and young children.
Talking to kids age 2 to 6
Kids in this age bracket often do not have enough life experience to understand some difficult and complex topics. Additionally, they may still be learning about abstract concepts such as cause and effect. They may be more concerned with things that affect their primary relationships with their mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents.
Address their feelings and yours too. It is important to let them know that feeling confused, sad, and scared is okay.
When breaking news to them, do it in the simplest terms. When talking about violent crime, for instance, you can tell them that an individual used a gun to shoot other people. When discussing hate crimes, you can tell them that some people do not receive the same treatment as others.
It is also critical to use basic terms when talking about feelings. Such terms include surprised, happy, angry, afraid, or sad. Even though young kids may not understand mental illness, they may understand emotions well. Try to avoid using expressions that only adults may understand.
Assure them that someone is in charge. You can include sentiments such as, “Mom and Dad will ensure that nothing bad happens to you,” in your talks.
Use ideas, vocabulary, and ideas that they already know. Recall some recent happenings in their own lives so they can relate to them. When talking about or crime, for example, you can recall when someone stole something from your children.
Talking to kids age 7 to 12 (tweens)
Children in this age bracket may be exposed to a great deal of age-inappropriate content. This is partly because they can read and write. In addition, school and activities separate them from their parents, they are entering the puberty, and they have more access to different forms of media.
As a consequence, they may encounter violent video games, distressing news such as reports of mass shootings, and hardcore pornography. They should be able to open their discussions about such matters without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
Begin by addressing their curiosity. If children find adult material while surfing the internet, you should find resources that may help them learn about age-appropriate and mature subjects.
Be sensitive to your children’s temperament and emotions. You may share how you feel when discussing how they feel. It may be difficult to know what triggers them. Honestly explaining your emotions may make it easier and more comfortable for children to discuss their own feelings.
Look for positives and not the just negatives. Try to be optimistic and not critical of their opinions.
Encouraging critical thinking is also a good way to talk with kids. Ask questions that are open-ended to prompt them to think more deeply about serious topics. Ask children what they heard and what it made them think and feel. Your questions and the responses may vary based on the children’s ages.
Offering perspective and context is another good way to discuss difficult topics with kids in this age category. To make sense out of an issue fully, kids need to understand the circumstances that surround a particular issue.
When discussing a mass shooting, you might tell children, “The individual who did the killing had problems and that confused his thoughts.” When talking about race and hate crimes, you might say, “There are some groups of people who believe that white people are better than people with darker skin. They sometimes commit crimes based on this idea.” Listen to children to understand what they are thinking and feeling.
Talking to teens
Teens engage in various media platforms on their own. They hear about difficult subjects from many sources. They may hear about news from social media sites or online chats without their parents’ knowledge.
Because teens often think that they know everything, they might bristle at lectures. Looking for media sources that can enrich their knowledge is important. It is also important to ask teenagers questions that will help them analyze their arguments.
Encourage open dialogue so teens know that they can always ask questions. Create dialogues where they can test their opinions and freely speak without fear.
One effective way to talk with teens is to help them consider the complexities that surround difficult subjects. Factors such as traditions, politics, and social problems may make some problems appear more difficult to solve.
Seek your teens’ opinions on why issues such as poverty, violence, and crime are so difficult to solve. Discuss the changes needed to solve other difficult issues.
Many teens are creating their identities and may consider taking risks. Ask their opinions on what they would do in difficult situations. Inquiring how they would react when faced with certain issues may appeal to their sense of adventure. It may encourage them to wrestle with ethical problems and ensure that they make better choices on their own.
Teens may be very cynical at times, but they may also be idealistic. Try to encourage them to consider solutions. Show them that they have your full trust. Seek their opinions and solutions about issues.
Understanding your children may help you communicate with them. This communication can be the key to open, honest, and positive relationships that last their entire lives.
Books are not just meant for children to learn about academic concepts, but also for them to develop character. One of the ways to do this is to educate them early on about the negative effects of substance abuse through reading and other means.
If you are a parent, it may be quite a temptation to go through an easy route–to shelter your children from the realities of this world, crossing your fingers that they won’t encounter negative influences in their lives. However, this approach can be like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Although they can be safe as long as you keep your eye on them, children also have their environments that are outside the home. This is why educating your children about “the real world” is so crucial as they grow up.
One of the most dangerous things that children may encounter once they reach pre-teen or teenage years are drugs. According to recent statistics, even children as young as 8th, 10th or 12th graders are experimenting on different substances that may develop further into substance abuse and addiction. The problem seems so difficult to resolve, rather than creating preventative measures to avoid it altogether.
As a parent, what can you do to help your children become aware of the dangers of drugs? What are effective ways, through education and other means, can you help them steer clear of this influence?
Effective ways to teach your children to say no to drugs
1. Read them interesting books about saying no to substance abuse.
Although it is difficult to make young children understand, there are actual story books that discuss the sensitive topic of substance abuse. Perhaps you have a family member suffering from substance addiction that you want to explain to your child. There are an ample amount of books for such situations.
There are also general books that discuss substance use to children in a language that’s safe for certain ages. They also help explain terms in a simple manner that may be comprehensible depending on the age group provided. These educational materials are vital for children to get an idea of what the problem is, to increase their awareness, and find ways to rise above related situations that they may encounter in the future.
2. Give them “The Talk”.
It is important to have open communication when it comes to educating children about drugs and other harmful substances. When these things are not discussed at home, children tend to find information through other sources such as their friends or the internet. Although this topic may be uncomfortable for your child or even yourself, you have to take responsibility as a parent to tell them about how people can get lured into experimentation and eventually, abuse.
If you are familiar with a story of someone who has been through substance abuse, how they suffered, and had a hard time recovering, it can be helpful. Some children will tend to ignore facts, but they won’t pass up on actual experiences that happen to others. If you personally have gone through a period of substance abuse, you may, at the right age and discretion, share the information with your child. This type of sharing can foster a culture of openness and vulnerability between your relationship.
3. Give some guided exposure for others to share their experiences.
If you feel like you need to take things a notch further, or if you have noticed that your child has a predisposition to substance use and abuse, you may, at the right age, be able to bring them in places where they can listen to other people’s experiences with substance abuse.
Around the ages of 13-17, children are less likely to share their experiences and feel more uncomfortable talking about touchy subjects. This is why as mentioned earlier, you have to open up the conversation as early as you think is wise about the topic of drugs, especially if this is something that affects your family. Around the teenage years, a great way for them to understand what others go through in a deeper level is by going to events held by drug rehab centers, or accompanying them in share-a-story encounters with people who want to educate against drugs.
4. Be an example.
Lastly and most importantly, it is best to set an example towards your children about drugs. Do not mock, ridicule, or take substance abuse subjects as a topic of light jokes in front of your children. If you have suffered from substance abuse in the past, staying sober for yourself and your kids are the best ways to help them avoid falling on the same path. If children come to know you as someone to be respected, they will more than likely follow your example.
As you ponder on these strategies to guide your children against drugs, remember than education and experience go hand-in-hand. Do your best in situations you can control, and give enough trust to your kids that they will make wise decisions in life.