Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me

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Discussing Difficult Topics with KidsThere are many difficult yet unavoidable conversations parents need to have with their children. I was lucky to have positive experiences with those sorts of conversations with my now-adult kids.

Whether the conversation was about death, sex, body image, drugs, alcohol, or avoiding peer pressure, a few parenting practices have worked well for me.

1. Open and Honest Communication

From the time my kids were little, my husband and I tried to treat them with respect and be open and honest with them. Will and Christina knew they could talk with us about anything. So, whenever they had a problem or question, we were the first people they came to for advice. That made everything easier when they were children … and especially when they were teenagers.

2. Books about Difficult Topics

I always found books helpful whenever I needed to talk with my kids about difficult topics or issues they were having problems with. When Will was 18 months old, he felt a lot of stress if he had to go to the doctor because of painful experiences with vaccinations. I went to the library and found a number of books about visiting the doctor. After we read those, Will felt confident when visiting the doctor.

From the time Will was a baby, I started collecting some books about death. I knew that if we had a death in the family, I would want the books but wouldn’t wish to start searching for them at the time. I was very thankful we had that collection when my maternal grandmother died when Christina was four years old.

I talk more about how we dealt with conversations about death in my post “Talking with Children about Death: Creating an ‘I Remember’ Book.” I also have a post on “Talking with Children about Tragedy.” In addition, I have a Helping Kids Cope Pinterest Board with links to helpful books and other resources.

I collected books about sex for various age levels, too.  I made sure to find books that were factual and promoted positive values. It was very helpful to have those books whenever Will or Christina had questions or reached a stage of development that could be helped by a book. My husband and I always answered the questions they asked, and then I offered an appropriate book to help answer any additional questions.

3. Positive Role Models

For any difficult issues, it helped that my husband and I had the same values and tried to be positive role models. We have a happy marriage, and neither of us drink, smoke, or take drugs. I also didn’t complain about my body or how I looked (an attitude/gift handed down from my mother}.  See “Helping Mothers and Daughters Have Healthy Body Images” for a complete list of my posts on body image.

Because my husband and I presented consistent and unified ideas, our children appeared to have extra security. It seemed to help them feel confident enough to make positive choices that weren’t affected by peer pressure.

What’s worked for you in talking about difficult issues with your kids?


This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn’t Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she’s explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she’s learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren’t so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she’s had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller’s Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter’s horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges–when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who’d want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn’t have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

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