As a parent, there are discussions that you dread having with your kids and others for which you aren’t prepared when they come up. There have been discussions I’ve had with my children for which I thought I would have had more time to prepare, but, as you know, kids like to catch us off guard.
In a recent car ride to the dentist with my eight-year-old duaghter, I was caught completely off guard when the subject of having babies came up. I let her lead the conversation, but she was confused on how one becomes pregnant. She thought you reached a magical age and then one day, you would wake up pregnant. She was concerned. She kept asking what age that would happen. So, keeping in mind her age and what would be age appropriate for her, we discussed pregnancy and relationships. I assured her that she wouldn’t reach a magic age and just wake up one day pregnant. We talked about how it isn’t as simple as that. I told her it took a special relationship and a part from a man and a part from a woman to make a baby. She felt better knowing she wouldn’t just wake up one day pregnant. I felt completely caught off guard. It was an interesting car ride to say the least.
In my house, we let the kids lead the conversation when it comes to the difficult topics.
We want them to ask questions and to think about things. They know that there are all kinds of families. They have asked about them when they were younger and know that families can look different for everyone. They have asked about natural disasters and wars. We try to always keep the conversations appropriate for their age and always assure them they can ask us anything.
When my father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer, we had to have a conversation about cancer. Then, when his cancer turned terminal, we had to discuss that sometimes doctors can’t “fix” a sickness. We talked a lot during those months about cancer and how it affects the body. We talked about medicine and treatments, and what it means to be terminally ill. We talked about prayer and how sometimes when we pray for healing, the only kind of healing there could be is by taking that person out of this world so they aren’t suffering anymore. We talked a lot. We cried a lot. We made it through a lot.
The kids have asked about disabilities and with two of the four kids being on the autism spectrum, we have had many discussions about people being born unique and special in every way. We talk about how no one is born the same as them. Everyone is different and sometimes those differences are seen — like someone in a wheelchair — and sometimes they aren’t seen — like someone on the spectrum — and sometimes it’s how someone may act. We discuss how beautiful differences are because if we were all the same it would be a boring world.
We have discussed religion in my house. Different religions, beliefs and how they are different. We go to church and read the Bible. We worship as a family. My kids ask questions about God and ask questions about others’ beliefs. They know some people have different beliefs and that some people don’t believe in a god. They like to learn about other cultures and are very inquisitive.
I am honest and I tell my kids that sometimes I just don’t have the answers they want. I think it helps them to know that sometimes there isn’t an answer to every question and that sometimes there is more than one answer. My biggest advice when having difficult conversations with kids is to be honest, stay age appropriate, let the kids lead the conversation, assure them they can ask questions and that you are a safe space for them.
There are some conversations I haven’t had the pleasure of having yet since my kids are so young, but I know that the day is coming for more awkward conversations with which they catch me completely off guard. For those instances, I will take my own advice and maybe get the kids these books to help with the conversations: Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls (Celebrate You, 1) and The Boys Body Book (Fifth Edition): Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up! (Puberty Guide, Health Education, Books for Growing Up) (Boys & Girls Body Books).