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Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations

Let’s acknowledge that things are hard right now. We are surrounded by news updates and people’s opinions and commentaries on social media. It is hard to know how much or how little to share with children of all ages, especially when we aren’t sure about our own feelings. The last thing any of us wants is to make things more difficult so we might shy away from hard, confusing, emotional conversations.

However, there are three very important reasons to be open to difficult conversations.

  1. 1. Talking about our feelings is important to our mental health. We don’t have to have all the answers. We can listen to each other, ask questions, be willing to share our own thoughts and feelings as the starting point to conversations.
  3. 2. Information is everywhere. Children need help to put things into perspective and to make sense of all that they hear and see.
  5. 3. This is an opportunity for adults to be positive role models to the younger generation about facing hard truths by listening to others’ perspectives, standing up for what you believe in, and checking the validity of information and sources.

Here is some advice from The Thrive Initiative about approaching conversations:

  • • Listen for feelings. Sometimes when youth come to a caregiver and ask questions about a tough topic, they are feeling unpleasant or unfamiliar emotions. For example, after a school shooting, children may feel fear, sadness, or threats to their sense of safety. Parents can help their children identify and name the feeling(s) they are experiencing.
  • • Give space for conversation; in other words, listen! Have you ever heard the saying, “Talk and listen in the same proportion of your ears and mouth.” What this means is, listen twice as much as you talk! All joking aside, often when children approach a parent, they don’t want you to minimize or solve their problem. They simply want to engage in conversation. So, if your child comes to you, ask follow-up questions, get opinions, be curious, and listen.
  • • Find out what they already know. This is a great tip for talking about tough topics. A simple question such as, “What do you already know about this topic?” can help parents gauge the child’s level of understanding on the topic. The conversation can proceed from there.
  • • It’s ok to say to your child, “Let me think about that.” If you need a moment to collect your thoughts before you engage in a tough topic, that’s OK! State your need, and, then, make sure you follow up with your child at a point in the near future.
  • • Finally, keep the door open for more conversation. When you wrap up your conversation with your youth, remind them you are available to talk if or when they need you! As children grow, keep the lines of communication open. 

More resources:

Talking About Race Portal by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture:


How to Talk to Kids About Difficult Subjects: