Kids ask a lot of tough questions. As parents, kids think we have all the answers, but oftentimes we don’t.
Heather Johnson shares a game plan that will help you navigate the toughest questions your kids can throw at you.
How to Answer the Tough Questions Kids Ask
When children hit you with those big life questions – race, religion, death, divorce, sex – it’s natural to feel a bit panicked, or even embarrassed. But these seven steps will help you be ready for those crucial conversations.
BE OPEN WHEN IT’S NOT “TOUGH”
Parents should remember that this isn’t about a single question. It’s about having conversations way before these “tough” questions show up. And that has to happen every single day. We have to have conversations about the randomness of life so, when it does get hard, our kids have a confident foundation to tether to. It’s only then that they are willing to have the bigger conversations with us.
MAKE THE TIME “RIGHT NOW”
What is the timing of tough conversations? Is it when they are 12 years old? 16 years old? The right time is when they ask. The right time is when something happens in the world and we have to come home and have the conversation so they aren’t afraid. Do your best to have the hard conversations right then, in the moment. If the ideal timing isn’t “right now” – set a time and a place to have the conversation, and follow through. Remember. Bring it up.
FIND OUT WHAT THEY KNOW
Before we tell kids anything, we need to find out where they are starting from. When we find out what they know, then we know where to take the conversation.
Look at yourself first. We tend to avoid these conversations out of embarrassment. We have to recognize this is not just a data transfer conversation – it is me recognizing my emotions, but also recognizing what emotions this conversation is eliciting for my child. Are they scared, anxious or nervous? The data makes them feel something – but data is just data. It’s not changing or going away. It’s the feelings we need to rectify. Our job is to help them understand what they are feeling and why.
STICK WITH PRINCIPLES AND VALUES
If I profess to parent from honesty, openness, patience, love and compassion – I better make sure that I’ve signed on and applied those principles to tough conversations. Be honest with your child in the information you share. Be patient with their follow-up questions. Show love in how you respond. The principles and values we use everywhere else – we have to use them in these tough conversations, too.
ASK FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS
We are going to offer up information and then seek feedback – “what else?” This isn’t me talking to my kids, this is us communicating one with another. So when they say that doesn’t make sense, or they ask why – keep letting them ask, and keep offering your help.
ENSURE SAFETY, HEALTH, AND LOVE
Safety, health and love is what we need to be offering. Always. So when we set out to have these tough conversation and you are looking at this template – first remember that safety, health and love is underneath all of it. It’s not about the specific words – it’s about empowering our kids with the knowledge they need to navigate the world around them. It’s about seeing our kids as people and giving them the information to feel safe and loved.
Heather Johnson M.S. completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brigham Young University, and has been an adjunct faculty member for the last 15 years. She teaches students the principles behind successful families and the importance of families spending time together.
With a desire to help beyond the classroom, Heather is a Marriage and Relationship Coach where she helps couples and families learn to love, forgive, and communicate. She loves watching individuals find confidence and joy in marriage and parenting.
Heather’s favorite place to be is next to her husband. Married for 16 years, her greatest joy comes from being a wife, and mother to their 6 children (ages 15 to 2 years). Marriage and motherhood have been her most humbling adventure.
Contact Heather for counseling at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.familyvolley.blogspot.com.