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Protecting Our Children

Talking with Your Kids About Tough Issues

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

“Talking with 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 early ages.

“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 time.”
  • 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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