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uxme88's avatar

How do you discuss difficult topics with your child/children?

Asked by uxme88 (21points) November 12th, 2021

Think of a time you had to discuss something difficult with your child or children. How did they ask? What approach(es) did you take? How did it make you feel? What thoughts came to mind?

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18 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

My ex-wife was an animal hoarder. She had tons of animals and her house was filthy and smelly. My boys, when they were about 9 or 10, would have to go over there for visitation. When they came, they would get into my car and my eyes would almost water from the overwhelming stench of cat urine and other foul odors. I tried to tell them one time about the smell and they got very upset thinking I was just trying to attack their mother.

So, one time, when we got home I told them to go get a bath and to bring me their clothes. When one boy brought me his clothes, as soon as he walked away I put them into a plastic bag, tied it shut, put it into another plastic bag and then tied that one shut as well. The other boy brought me his clothes and I did the same thing. The next day, after they got home from school, I told the boys to come to the kitchen. I gave each boy the bag containing their clothes from the night before. I told the first to open it and to give a smell. He did so and snatched his head back in a hurry. I told the other boy to open his and give a smell.. He opted to pass.

I told them those were the clothes they had on last night when they came back from their mom’s house. I explained that was what they smell like when they come back from their mom’s. I told them I wasn’t trying to say anything about their mother or trying to come between them…I wanted them to have whatever sort of relationship they were going to have with their mother not to be tainted by my views. But I pointed out that smelling like that was not good. And I pointed out the fact that once they were immersed in the smell for a while they could no longer really notice it as much. But other people could. I told them it could be embarrassing and they could be viewed as “the smelly kids”. I said I didn’t want that for them and I was telling them so they would be aware and could do something about it.

After that, they still went gladly to their visitations with mom but as soon as they got home they stripped their clothes off, put them into the dirty clothes, and they ran for the shower, battling over who would get to shower first.

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Forever_Free's avatar

My experiences on this has spanned topics from drug use, sex, divorce, peer pressure and more.
The conversations need to come from a calm and factual basis. It needs to be an open conversation that takes time to listen to their side. It may only be the start of a conversation that takes days or longer. Be prepared to answer things honestly. These can have lifelong impact for all parties involved.
For me I had a sense of loving care. The loving care of a parent helping to guide. The pride as a parent knowing they were not afraid to ask. The empathy to take in their side and feelings and help them through. The patience to not give them the answer or dictate what they need to do.
The genuine love for my parents who did the same thing to me when I was a child.
Overall the positive feeling of being there for them and strengthening the parent child relationship.

KRD's avatar

I would talk to them when you and your child are not busy or having a rough time with something so you don’t cause any bad things. Once the time is right tell them that you want to talk when they have a moment and tell them what you have to tell them.

ruiamsoru's avatar

It depends on their age and understanding ability. But being honest, straightforward, and using proper language terminology is helpful.

zenvelo's avatar

Similar to @seawulf575, the most difficult conversations have to do with communicating what is going on with the other parent.

I was told very early in the separation from my ex to never bad mouth her or make negatove remarks about her to the kids. Kids are resilient in ho wthey see one parent deal with the other, and they can tell if you are bing honest, or vindictive, or working towards being peaceful.

The toughest was explaining to my pre-teen kids that their mom was “not well” which is why she was in the hospital at Thanksgiving (she was on a psychiatric hold). I was honest with them but I did not go into detail with them. They had dealt with her enough on their own; any attempt to deny her condition would make them distrust me.

Caravanfan's avatar

I just talk to her straight. “I am concerned that you might be drinking too much.” (That didn’t happen as my daughter doesn’t drink too much, but that’s an example of how I would start the conversation.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Shortly after her little sister was born, my 6 year old asked me “What would happen if a bear had a chicken and a chicken had a bear?”
I said “You’d have a dead chicken and a frustrated bear!”
She was not pleased with that response so I launched into the actual specifics.
She was totally grossed out!

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Dutchess_III's avatar

When I was about 5 I was playing with the neighbor kids in their house.
At one point they had something to show me. It was a naked Barbie and a naked Ken doll. The Ken doll was on top of the Barbie.
They said “This is how babies are made!” Then they made me swear not to tell my Mom. I swore.
First chance I got I galloped home and asked Mom.
I’ll never forget how matter of factly she told me. (She was so volatile about nothing and everything.)
At the time it sounded absurd and I didn’t quite believe it. It wasn’t until I was about 12 and saw a stallion mount a mare that it clicked. “Oh! It gets hard!

(Looking back I’m pretty sure those girls were sexually abused. There were other instances they shared with me.)

JLeslie's avatar

No children here, but I was a young child at one point and still am my parents’ daughter.

Direct is best. Simple and short is good too. When kids are young let them ask questions and just answer what they ask, you don’t need to expound too much.

When my dad tries to tell me something in many different ways, multiple times, it just feels manipulative and annoying. He was always great answering questions I have, but when he’s concerned or anxious about life in general for me he is sometimes overwhelming and overbearing. He presents it like he is talking about another topic in a new way or a new discovery, but I’m not an idiot. That’s how it feels, like I want to say “I know what you’re getting at dad.” Sometimes I say it.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I don’t we chose to skip parenthood and it’s been great.

KRD's avatar

I’m not a parent or a doctor but I know certain things.

seawulf575's avatar

@zenvelo I never bad-mouthed their mother to them and discouraged it from others around me. I did have an interesting discussion with my daughter one time. She was being a belligerent teen and we started into quite a row. She was all wound up and I was trying to make heads or tails of what was going on. At one point she told me that I was trying to buy her love. I told her to get her shoes on, we were going for a walk. She said she didn’t want to, I told her she didn’t have a choice.
We went for a walk and it allowed us to walk in silence a while, cooling down. I then broached the subject with her. I told her she said I was trying to buy her love. I told her I was baffled and asked what I ever bought her that made her think that. She was quiet for a few moments and finally said “you bought me a book one time”. I asked her if she felt I did that just to get in good with her or if I bought it because it was a book she wanted and I thought it would be nice. She agreed it wasn’t to try buying her love.
So then I touched on what ended up being the root of all the strife between her. I told her that when she said things like that, the impression I had was that she didn’t really think that, but that she had heard it somewhere. She was quiet for a bit and then said she had. Her mom and grandmother had both said it. I told her that was ok…I understand I cant control what others say about me. All I can do is to control what I say and do. I pointed out to her that I don’t talk bad to her about her mom or grandparents because they aren’t my mom or grandparents. They are hers. She deserves to have whatever relationship she wants with them; all I can do try not to make that relationship based on how I feel.

That conversation opened her eyes a bit

DharmaBum's avatar

I think cartoons are a great way to help children understand concepts and topics that are difficult to explain.

KRD's avatar

@DharmaBum that can work.

ariaezell37's avatar

It depends on their age and the specific topic you want to discuss.

Straightforwardness is good if your child is also straightforward. But it can also come off as pushing, and make them hide in themselves and refuse to give any response to the topic. In that case, before dropping a bomb it’s better to wander around the topic, ask the child’s opinions, say words of support, and give related examples that are not about your child. If it’s about them needing to change their behavior, then suggesting something instead of commanding would definitely be better. Children hate commands and patronizing, but they are willing to do things that other kids do, so any examples are good unless it sounds like “you see, Chuck has good grades so he will go to college, and if you won’t study like Chuck, then you will fail”. This kind of approach will only make a kid hate Chuck and studying. If it’s about school and a child’s future, then offer help or explain why it’s important and how good grades or knowledge will help your kid later. It’s not about being the best in class or whatever, it’s about making your life easier in the future. I’d make sure that it’s about my child and not about me and my wants.

If the topic is about family-related things, then vocalized support is what I find necessary. No matter if that’s about divorce, a new sibling, someone’s illness or death, or a new financial situation – the child must feel safe, loved, and not alone. Phrases like “nothing will change” don’t work, mainly because it’s just lies, so explaining the situation and all possible outcomes and effects would be the best. That would make the child understand that adults include them in their lives and make decisions considering the child’s existence and feelings. Also, after giving the kid pieces of information, I’d would ask how they feel or what they think about it. And it’s important to let the child know that “I don’t know what/how to feel” is a valid answer. Sometimes they need time to come up with an answer or to understand how something makes them feel, that’s why giving them time and space might help. Simultaneously ensuring them that you’re there for them at any time.

If it’s about drinking and drugs, I wouldn’t dictate them to stop. Because they won’t. It will only make them more insistent on doing that. And there will be more and more fights with no good outcome for both parties. I’d ask if they need help with anything in their lives. If something bothers them so much that they are trying to escape this reality and hide behind the feeling that alcohol and drugs give. I know that suggesting therapy can be met with strong defense, so explaining the whole concept of it and supporting therapy could help the child understand that therapy isn’t about weakness, being broken, or needing some kind of fixing. It’s about help with a huge range of emotions that most people are dealing with every day. Some of them find minor help in hyper fixation on hobbies, some of them – in parties and drugs, some – in retail therapy, and others – in food. But some find the courage to ask for professional help and go through anything painful with understanding and support. Yes, you’re paying for that support but any temporary help isn’t for free either. Kids can be ashamed of asking for help and parent’s duty is to let them know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Honesty, kindness and support are the keys.

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