How To Broach Sensitive Topics With Children

Monday, March 2, 2020
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There comes a time in your life as a parent where you will have to broach sensitive topics with your children. Since my daughters are 14 and 17, I seem to be doing a lot of this lately since they are at the ages where they are hyperaware of what is going on around them and in the world. Whether it's the issue of loss or explaining the hardships of life that may have presented themselves too soon, or helping them overcome issues such as bullying at school, all this can take a toll on your child, and so providing a place of safety and comfort for them to learn about these issues and slowly digest them is necessary.

Additionally, sometimes it can be that the topic is extremely sensitive and requires careful thought and protection. For instance, the boy scout abuse lawsuits of recent times have made us all aware just how anyone can be a victim. This can be a tough job for any parent, but of course love, respect and the safety of our child makes this approach less of a difficulty for us and instead a must, and a task for which we must find the right approach. Since our daughters have been raised in the Catholic religion, they've had many questions about the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that we've had to address both honestly and delicately.

We've gone about our discussions with the following things in mind:

Curate A Safe Environment
Curating a safe environment is important for children to feel as though they can be trusted, and that they can trust you. Broaching sensitive topics can be very draining for both children and parents, and it can sometimes be quite difficult to sort through the emotions and experiences they've had, or to give them an explanation as to why something may have happened, such as the natural loss of a pet. A safe environment, such as a bedroom or living room with a candle, nice fragrance, a warm blanket, and a comfortable seating arrangement is the least we can all do to ensure they feel safe in this environment.

Give Them Their Time
Forcing them to respond or hurrying them up can create urgency, and this will leave them feeling less safe than ever. Give them their time to respond, or to broach the topic. You may not address it directly to start with, but talk to them with care and assure them they’re not in trouble, and are loved wholeheartedly. You may only get your responses in parts, but if you can read between the lines and make each question easier to answer (such as yes/no rather than open-ended, journalist-like questions), you can come to the best result.

Slowly Give Them Appropriate Information
Slowly giving them the appropriate information is important. Dropping too much on them at once can overwhelm them. For instance, letting them know a grandparent has passed is enough without having to immediately tell them how it happened, why it happened, and what all the funeral arrangements will be. Slowly telling them, gauging their response, giving them a hug, and then as they begin to digest the information, provide more details if you must. It may take hours or even days to sporadically have this conversation. You’ll know when the time is right.

With this advice, you can more easily speak to your children about the sensitive subjects in life.

Have you had to broach a sensitive subject with your children lately? What tips would you recommend when doing so?

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