Curiosity and boundless enthusiasm are excellent traits to foster in our children, but they can also lead to questions we’re not sure how to answer. Eventually, we need to have some difficult conversations with our little ones. Here are some of the trickiest discussions you will have with your kids and how you can get through them.
You probably shouldn’t wait until your child’s first period to answer the “What is a period?” question. Puberty can be a frightening time for your little one, and even more so if they don’t have the knowledge and tools to understand what’s happening to them.
Girls usually begin puberty between eight and fourteen years old, while boys start between nine and fifteen. No matter your child’s gender, you should sit them down while they’re prepubescent for a talk about the changes they’ll undergo.
Some puberty topics you might cover include:
Facial and body hair
Body changes (hormones, growth spurts, etc.)
You should foster a compassionate environment where your child feels safe and unashamed to ask you about puberty once it begins.
Where babies come from
Though images of babies in storks’ mouths are cute when your child is younger, eventually you’ll have to get into the nuts and bolts of reproduction. Keep the conversation age-appropriate, but don’t shy away from using the proper terms for anatomy, as this vocabulary can help kids initiate these conversations later on.
Consent should be a large part of your early conversations about where babies come from. You can encourage your child to have a healthy understanding of bodies and relationships by fostering open dialogue.
If grandma lives at home and gets sick, you’ll want to prepare your child for death. None of us like to think about the possibility of losing a loved one, but it’s better to start the conversation before grief strikes.
Help your child understand that death is a natural part of life, that everybody dies someday, and that sadness is a healthy part of the grieving process. Teach them that their big feelings about death are valid, and spend time with your child after a loss. Answer any of your child’s questions about death simply and honestly.
Also, don’t be scared to take your kid to a funeral. While it’s your decision whether your child is ready for an open casket viewing, attending the funeral can help them process their emotions and begin to move forward.
Are you still in touch with your childhood best friend? Maybe, but probably not. As children grow, their relationships and personalities are still developing. Often this means that even the best of friends can outgrow each other. In a worst-case scenario, your child and their friends might have a falling out, and you’ll be left to pick up the pieces.
Talk to your child about social relationships and explain that friendships ending is a natural part of life. Ensure your child knows that it’s okay to be sad about losing a friend but that they will always have the opportunity to make new friends. Lastly, you should teach your child the basic rules of empathy so that they can begin to reconcile hurt feelings with peers on their own.
If you are getting a divorce, don’t leave your kid in the dark until the papers are signed. Tell your children what it means for parents to live apart from each other, and don’t discourage any difficult emotions that arise. Answer any questions that come up in an age-appropriate manner, and help them understand how the divorce will change their life.
Alcohol and drugs
Before your child can face peer pressure to try alcohol or drugs, teach them about the dangers of using illegal substances.
Talk about drunk driving, addiction, disease, and the strain that substance abuse can put on a family. Be sure also to encourage empathy for people who use substances while maintaining that substance abuse will only lead to heartache. Lastly, make sure that your child feels safe enough to come to you if they face a difficult situation involving drugs or alcohol.
It can be hard to talk to your bundle of joy about the hard things in life when all you want to do is hug them and keep them safe from the world. That said, we all have to learn these lessons at some point, and there’s no better teacher for your children than yourself.