Talking With Kids About Difficult Topics

by Kyle Kick
BStrong Together Executive Director

Topics like bullying, drugs and alcohol, sex, vaping, violence, death, depression, suicide, and so much more can be hard to address with our children. We know that talking to our kids about difficult topics is one of the most challenging parts of being a parent. It’s not easy for any parent, but here are some tips to help:

  • Start talking early to build a relationship of trust and open communication when your children are young. This will make it easier and more natural for them to come to you when difficult situations arise as they get older.
  • Create a safe environment where your children feel free to ask questions, share their worries and concerns, and express their thoughts and opinions.
  • Follow your child’s lead and talk with him or her in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Ask questions and encourage an open dialogue.
  • Listen.
  • Acknowledge, address, and help them to name their feelings.
  • Share your personal and family values.
  • Be honest and patient.
  • Talk about solutions and how to handle a difficult situation. Role-playing can be helpful to practice what to do or say in a challenging situation.
  • Remember that it’s ok to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure how to answer that. I need to think about it or learn more.” Then ask, “Could we try to find the answer together?” or “Can we talk about it again when I have more information?” Set a date and time to revisit the topic.
  • Use everyday opportunities to talk – in the car or on a walk, when they are getting ready for bed or after watching a movie together.  Natural opportunities to talk about difficult subjects present themselves every day.
  • For younger children, books can be a great way to start an important conversation.
  • Revisit difficult topics as they grow. Remember, it isn’t one 60-minute conversation, it’s 60, one-minute conversations that make a difference.
  • Reassure them that they are safe and loved and can talk to you any time, regardless of the subject. It is important that they know that no topic is off-limits to bring to you.

Remember, it’s all about connection with your child whether they are young or during the more challenging times of being a teenager.  Always come back to how much you love them and that you are always there for them when they need you. 

Download and print our Tips for Talking with Kids About Difficult Topics handout.

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