Protecting Our Children
Talking with Your Kids About Tough Issues
By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton
your kids about tough issues” is the title of a chapter in a small booklet
titled, “ A Parent's Guide to the TV Ratings and V-Chip.' This booklet
was produced by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. For a free copy of
this booklet, call: 1-877-282-4478.
The book states that in today's world, kids are confronting issues about
sex, relationships, violence, alcohol, drugs, and other tough issues at increasingly
“Parents want to protect their kids, educate them, and impart their
values, but they often express uncertainly about how and when to do so,”
the booklet says. “Having conversations with a child about sex and other
tough issues can be difficult for parents, but it is essential.”
The authors of the booklet made the following suggestions:
- Start early. If you want your children to have your values, you need to
discuss these issues first before they receive other information that confuses
them or instills values that are not yours. Many parents are late in getting
to these crucial subjects.
- Initiate conversations with the child. It would be nice if children asked
the questions, but this article confirms that usually they do not. TV and
other media are great tools to open discussions on various topics.
- Tough topics are sometimes uncomfortable. Remember, our children are hearing
about sex, drugs, and violence through the media and other sources, and
that information may not include the values that we want our kids to have.
- Create an open environment. Our children will be open to answers from
us as long as we are open to their questions. “It's up to us to create
the kind of atmosphere in which our children can ask any questions –
on any subject – freely and without fear of consequence.
- Communicate your values. Research shows that children want and need values
taught to them by their parents, so don't hesitate to do so.
- Listen to your child. Listening helps us understand what our children
want to know. It helps us understand where they really are on the subject
we are discussing so we don't talk over their heads.
- Try to be honest. No matter the age, we need to give honest answers. When
we do so it teaches our children that they can trust us. When we don't answer,
children find answers from their imagination or other sources, and the chances
are that we won't like these answers.
- Be patient. “By listening patiently, we allow our children to think
at their own pace and we are letting them know that they are worthy of our
- Use everyday opportunities to talk. There are “talk opportunities”
that arise, usually at inconvenient times. It is important to take advantage
of them, because then they won't feel lectured to.
- Talk about it again and again. “Since most young children can only
take in small bits of information at any one time, they won't learn all
they need to know about a particular topic from a single discussion. That's
why it's important to let a little time pass, then ask the child to tell
you what she remembers about your conversation. This will help you correct
any misconceptions and fill in missing facts.”
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