It seems as though we were just bringing in the New Year with new resolutions in mind. 2022 is definitely on a quick moving pace so my hope for you is that you and your family have been able to enjoy some down time as we inch closer to the summer months. There are so many things going on in our world right now that it is hard to turn on the TV, get onto social media or turn on your phone, without hearing about some top news story that has us all shaking our heads. Unfortunately, it is a reality and many of us continue to trek along our journeys with positive vibes and an optimistic outlook. Chalk it up to life awareness and our personal growth experiences and wisdom.

But what about our younger generation? There is no doubt our children are picking up on the news stories and all of the confusing information out there. What happens if your child asks you a question about a sensitive topic? How do we even begin to have those difficult conversations? Do we color their worlds with rainbows and unicorns and hope for the best, or do we find appropriate ways to address the unexpected questions honestly while providing the emotional support? There were many times while raising my two girls that I would have picked the first option, but I think it was because I was a first-time parent back then and I simply did not know what to say or where to begin.

As we all know, children have impeccable timing. You might find yourself having an in-depth conversation with other adults, and that is the opportunity your child will take to ask you about why Red Hot, the family Beta fish pet, is floating at the top of his bowl. As much as we would love to “schedule” these conversations for the right time, and the right place, and with the right people, we know all too well it does not work that way. All too often we tend to silence a child’s questions about difficult subject matter, perhaps because we do not know how to answer it or maybe it is because we do not know how the child will feel once we do give them the answers. I truly believe it is all about validation. Maybe at that moment, instead of trying to come up with a quick clever answer, we find comfort in the ability to validate our children’s feelings. Perhaps instead of saying “you shouldn’t feel sad, Red Hot is only sleeping”, try turning the conversation where you are acknowledging what your child has said. “I see and hear that you are worried about Red Hot, would you like to talk about it now?” If you are in the middle of something else when your child spontaneously begins that conversation with you, you might try saying “I really want to talk to you about this, but later this afternoon will work better.”

With this approach, you are letting your child know that it is ok to feel the way they do and that while you may not have all of the answers, you want to be able to discuss it. We hear many times that children are resilient, maybe more resilient than we give them credit for, but sometimes younger children do not need to know all of the details of a frightening matter. The difficult conversation topics are endless, so be sure to ask children questions to figure out what they already know about the specific talking point. Remember to put your best listening ears on while your child is talking and asking questions. Welcome any and all types of questions because at the end of the day, you want your kiddos to come to you for answers. Do not forget, you are a wealth of knowledge filled with experiences and wisdom! Make sure you remind yourself that it is ok if you do not have the exact answer right away. Saying “I don’t know the answer to that question” or “I’ll have to think about this a bit more” and continuing the conversation at a later time is ok. Keep in mind our children take their cues from us, so model the type of temperament you hope to see in your own little ones. Having difficult conversations is hard, but if you handle it well it can bring you and your child closer together and help you to understand each other a bit more.
Stay positive and continue creating memories with your children. Stay safe and healthy.

Rita Lewis
Vice President of Education and Training
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