Parent Survival Guide: How to talk kids about tough subjects

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 12:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In a year of so many challenges, TV screens and phones have been inundated with images of violence, racial tension, and revolving information in the fight against COVID-19.

Child Psychiatrist Dr. Magaret Cochran says what people are seeing play out on their screens can have a big effect on their kids.

“There’s so much going on out there -- Oh this is horrible. This is bad. Science is not any good. All kinds of things that does frighten children,” Cochran said.

Cochran says one of the most difficult parts to being a parent is talking about hard topics. In a time where images are everywhere and even small kids can be exposed she says it’s more important than ever to open the door to talk and and create teachable moments.

“They need to know how to talk about difficult things and how to make the world go and face difficult things,” Cochran said. “They need to know, no matter what; it’s only the dragons we don’t face that can hurt us. If we turn around and face the dragon then we can fix it.”

While broaching difficult topics is important, Cochran says it’s also vital to consider the child’s age when it comes to the topic you are talking about .

Cochran says parents need to urge kids to identify their feelings with what they have seen or heard and create a space for them to talk .

“It’s our time now to educate them and let them know a bad time is not the end, just a bad time. And it’s going to get better and you are going to be great,” Cochran said. “Finish the conversation because they are listening. They are storing it, but it’s going in.”

Cochran says talking things out when it comes to what kids see and hear makes them not only feel confident, but safe. She says encourage open dialogue and also open-ended questions.

It’s also important to share values and morals, Cochran said. The importance of being respectful of others who are different is critical when teaching these lessons however.

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