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.
Any topic is helped with open and honest communication. For example, many families today have a loved one who has cancer. I have a post at BitsofPositivity.com on “Talking with Children about Cancer,” That discussion could be combined with an activity, such as making a “10 Things I Love About You” Book.
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.” and “The Best Children’s Books about the Death of a Pet” (post from 2016). 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 “Body Image Resources” 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?
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