How to Talk With Children About Difficult Topics

Tackling difficult topics with your child can prove to be tricky. While you likely know that you need to broach topics that are potentially challenging, such as sex, drug use and deaths in the family, doing so can be uncomfortable, to say the least. To make your talks about these important yet difficult facts of life more effective and less painful, employ some techniques to simplify the process.

Step 1

Start small. Don’t make your first attempt at tackling a difficult topic a humdinger. Instead, start with smaller, easier to broach topics. For example, instead of beginning your difficult topic approach by jumping right into the topic of hard drug use, begin by discussing slightly easier, yet still important, things, like responsible over-the-counter drug use. By doing this, you avoid bombarding your child and get him use to the concept of talking about potentially uncomfortable things little by little.

Step 2

Capitalize off of current events. If something is in the news, talk about it with your child. For example, if you and your child happen to catch a news program about teen sexual behavior, tackle this topic immediately post-viewing of the program. This practice ensures that your mention of the topic seems logical and not, instead, out of left field.

Step 3

Explore your child’s current topic knowledge. Don’t assume you know what your child knows. Before you delve into the conversation, ask her to share her preexisting knowledge to ensure that you aren’t rehashing things of which she is already aware.

Step 4

Pick the proper time. Timing is everything when it comes to approaching difficult topics. Don’t bring up a challenging topic during an argument or when you only have a few moments. Instead, select a time when you and your child are engaging in friendly conversation and you have plenty of time to dedicate to the task of talking about the topic.

Step 5

Select an appropriate environment. Pick an environment in which your child feels safe, such as your child’s bedroom or the family den. Also, ensure that your environment is private, closing the door and locking out any curious siblings so your child feels free to open up.

Step 6

Share, but don’t preach, your point of view. While you would like your child to agree with you, preaching at him is not the way to accomplish this goal. If you have an opinion about the topic you are discussing, present it to the child and provide facts to back it up, but don’t demand that he agree as doing so will be counterproductive.

Step 7

Listen actively to what your child has to say. Conversations go two ways. As your child speaks, make eye contact with him and absorb what he is saying. By listening actively, you not only ensure that you actually hear what he has to say, but you also show your child that what he is saying is important to you, thereby encouraging him to share more openly with you in the future.

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