One day you’re holding a new baby—toes in your hand and a little noggin’ tucked in the crook of your elbow. The next thing you know that baby is running past you, full of opinions, ideas and questions. Lots of questions. Scary questions.
Sometimes those questions seem to come out of nowhere. But when we’re really on top of our game, we head them off at the pass. Even though we’re scared. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Take a Deep Breath. You Got This.
Let’s practice a little exposure therapy, shall we? Take a deep breath (yes, again) and think to yourself, “It’s a good thing for me to talk to my kids about sex, mental health issues and violence.” Now repeat the line in a whisper. Then say it out loud. When you’re feeling really brave, share your newfound confidence with your spouse or a close friend.
Because here’s the deal: it is a good and wonderful thing for your kids to hear about complex topics directly from you. You can present the facts in a calm, relaxed manner, keep the door open for questions and point your kids back to the truth.
The ultimate truth, of course, is that God loves your children very much. And when you’re talking with them about the tough stuff of life, they need to know that God loves them and that you love them too.
3 Conversations That Scare Every Parent (And How to Have Them Anyway)
Let’s take a look at the complex topics mentioned above: sex, mental health issues and violence. We’ll talk about the high points you need to cover, when you might want to start the conversation and how to go about it.
All Things Sex
Sex might just the be the trickiest subject of the all. After all, sex in and of itself is a beautiful thing. And all the parents said, “Amen,” But there’s also a lot of risk involved in sex.
Hit the high points: You want to make sure your kids understand the logistics of sex, consent, what a healthy dating relationship looks like and how to respond when they’re inevitably exposed to pornography.
When to get the ball rolling: You can begin to build a foundation for this topic early on by calling body parts by their scientific names and teaching kids to set and respect body boundaries. As you kids enter preschool and early elementary school, answer their questions about bodies and where babies come from in an age-appropriate way.
How to make the most of your conversations: Foundation in place, plan to have sex talks on the regular. Kids will probably hear about sex and may even be exposed to pornography by late elementary school. You’ll want to make sure they understand how things work and have a script for saying “No thanks” before then. You’ll also benefit from modeling and discussing what a healthy relationship looks like by the time your child enters middle school.
Mental Health Issues
Experts agree that our kids are currently experiencing a mental health crisis. Fueled by the realities of the past few years, more and more kids are experiencing anxiety and depression, engaging in self-harm or even attempting suicide.
Hit the high points: Kids need to know that it’s okay to feel down—even desperately so. They need to know and believe that they are not alone and that there is help available to see them to the other side.
When to get the ball rolling: You might think it’s best to avoid talking about mental health issues until they arise, but you can start right now to model what it looks like to take care of your own mental health, both proactively and reactively. You can also help young kids begin to name their feelings, “I can tell you’re not happy, but what is it that you are feeling? Sad? Mad? Scared? Frustrated? Hurt?”
How to make the most of your conversations: If you think your son or daughter might really be struggling, say something. It’s best to be direct, lead with love and seek to find understanding. If you’re able, please also reach out to a medical professional for help. Your kid may resist this at first, but a trained counselor can help to equip your child with useful tools and strategies as they move toward health and wholeness.
Bonus resource: We’re passionate about supporting parents through their kid’s mental health. We have an entire online course dedicated to walking alongside you as you walk alongside your child.
Violence, Violence Everywhere
Reading the news these days can be so distressing. Between shootings, wars and the divisive nature of our country, it can overwhelm even the most unshakeable of adults. What, then, must it be doing to our kids?
Hit the high points: It’s helpful for kids to understand that while, yes, there are people in our world who make terrible, harmful decisions, most people are good. Most people want the best for everyone, even if they have different ways of going about it.
When to get the ball rolling: You might tread lightly on heavy topics like wars and shootings for young children. Consider how likely it is that someone else will tell them about a recent happening before doing it yourself. If it seems likely, open the discussion directly while sparing your child any graphic or unnecessarily scary details.
How to make the most of your conversation: After answering questions in an age appropriate way, revisit the idea that most people are good and help your child find examples of people in your neighborhood, church or community who live this out. Then teach your child to fight fear by coming up with actionable steps she can take now or in a moment of crises. She might write a letter to a victim’s family or learn to find an adult with children if she needs help.
Our kids are growing faster by the day, and that’s a wonderful thing. Let’s equip them for adulthood by talking about what really matters—even if it scares us.