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What do you do when you need to have to have a difficult conversation with your kid? Serious discussions happen for a number of reasons. They may arise because of a behavioral issue, a death in the family, or different tragedy has befallen the family. TV shows like "Full House" made heart-to-heart conversations look easy, but the truth is it isn't always easy to be completely honest with your children. If you're struggling, here are some tips for having serious discussions with your kids.
It may be easier to tell your kids that their dead goldfish went on vacation, but are you sparing THEM from the bad news or YOURSELF? Kids understand a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for, so even though it’s uncomfortable it’s important to have those talks from a place of honesty.
Be a safe person for them to express their feelings to. Little ones are still learning to process their emotions and act on them appropriately. It's all about of their growth. The adults in their lives have an obligation to guide them in processing big emotions. They won't have a complete grasp on their emotions, but let them be sad, or frustrated, or whatever other emotion they are feeling. As parents we always come at situations with logic and reason, but remember that they aren't quite there yet. They're still struggling with feelings like rejection, disappointment, frustration. Being aware of this will make it even easier to be patient with them.
Kids pick up on how we’re feeling. Mirroring our behavior is a part of how they learn what is ok and what’s not. It’s ok if your kids know you aren’t super mom or dad all the time. That doesn’t mean we confide in them like an adult, but if a family member passes away it’s ok that they see you’re sad about it too. Learning that its ok to express feelings is an important part of their development, and as they get older it’s also important for them to feel like they can have those feelings in front of us and not bottle it all up.
There are so many great books out there that cover difficult topics for kids. They can create a great starting point for having a hard discussion, especially if starting the conversation just isn’t happening naturally for you. It can be daunting to think of explaining what we think of as traumatic subjects to kids especially when there’s no blueprint.
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At the end of the day there’s no one “right” way to have a serious conversation with your child. As long as you can get the information across and they understand it is what's important.