How to tackle tough topics with your kids

Written by Becky Leach
Published on October 27, 2020

We have a twelve-year-old boy and he is now, more than ever, interested in what’s going on in the world. He wants to know about things like abortion and LGBTQ rights and whether black lives matter. He wants to watch the news and read books, and he has a tendency to ask really tough questions. 

But you know what? 

There is a tension that lies in my mama-heart between his desire to educate himself and my knowledge of what’s out there. 

I know the darkness that the news brings, that the world brings, and would love to protect his precious, innocent little heart just a little longer.

But the hard truth for us right now is that our kids will be learning it somewhere, right? 

So the question for us needs to be, who is going to frame the conversation for them? Who will tackle the tough topics with our children? Is it going to be us or their friends, or their friends’ parents, or their school? 

You better believe that you want to be the one framing the political landscape for them. You better believe that Christian parents, in particular, best take an interest in talking about the hard and dark things. Because our kids will ask the questions. And if we don’t answer, they will find someone who will. 

So what should we do? How do we know what’s appropriate and at what age? 

How do we even start the conversation?

Frame the conversation 

In my humble (and unprofessional) opinion, the days of “what’s appropriate” have come to an end. 

Our children have unrestricted access to information. 

If they have a question, they will find an answer, regardless of whether it’s “age appropriate.” 

Do you want your kids googling abortion? Terrorists? Presidential candidates?

As much as I wouldn’t want it this way, our kids have come to know that we don’t shy away from the hard stuff. 

Sometimes, oftentimes, we water down the conversation, but we have made it a policy that our first question back to them should be: What does the Bible say about that? 

This question is vital because they will soon start thinking for themselves. If we spoon-feed them all the answers, telling them what we think on all the issues, we will have done our kids a disservice when they reach the “my parents don’t know anything” stage in life. 

Also important to note: our own opinions are flawed, y’all. 

They change with new information, new research, new voices. 

The very best thing we can do when our kids ask about a social issue, the protests, or the presidential debate is direct them back to Scripture—not to avoid the conversation, but to assure them that the answer is based in the truth and to show them how to use Scripture to form convictions.

Revisit the topic

When our kids come home asking tough questions, the first thing we want to know is whether they are serious about the discussion, or are they just asking a question in passing? 

Do they want to know what we think or do they want to tell us what they think? 

I’ve unfortunately found that I’m super quick to spew information back at them when they really aren’t that interested. 

This leaves me frustrated and the kids annoyed, and the last thing I want is to deter them from asking me or making comments about what they think. 

Even if it is in passing, it’s a window into their little hearts. 

When tackling a particularly tough topic, you might want to revisit it, and ask them if you can schedule a time to do so. Grab a Sonic drink or make ice cream. Sit on the porch or take them on a walk. This gives you time not only to decide what to say, but also to pray and ask God to go before you. After all, if there is any time we need him to go before us, it is in these kinds of conversations.

And, if you don’t have the answer, be honest! 

Sharing our own struggles is one of the most transparent and impactful things we can do for our kids, especially in the hard things. 

Listen well

Finally, in tackling tough topics with our kids, James tells us to “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). 

Our kids want little more than to feel seen and heard, not just in the world, but especially in their homes. 

They want to know that their opinion matters and their questions matter. 

So, above all, even when it’s hard, listen. 

Even when you don’t have the answers, even when you have to water down the conversation, even when you don’t like what you’re hearing—listen. 

The ability to listen to others respectfully and with kindness is not something we see a lot of in the world, but we can absolutely model this for our kids when they come to us for a discussion. 

We can absolutely show them respect while asking for respect. 

We can absolutely demonstrate how to disagree while listening to a different opinion.

Have the tough conversations 

There is much I would rather be doing with my kids other than talking politics, or any other current event, really. But we have to decide this is too important to push to the sides. 

These conversations will frame their worldview. If we shut them down, I wonder how they might value our opinions in the future. 

We can do hard things, friends, and we can tackle tough topics with our kids!

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Becky Leach

Becky Leach is a fervent writer, accidental speaker and self-taught artist. She adores Instagram, hates working out and is obsessive over the creamer in her coffee. She is a mom of three crazy kids and married to her high school sweetheart, who just so happens to also be her State Representative. The beat of Becky's heart is to equip women in living free in the grace of Jesus's great love and as a result, recently co-founded FreeToo Ministries. Connect with her at www.beckyleach.com.

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