When my daughter was just 7 years old, she and I were taking a walk and she asked me, “Dad, we’re Christians, but my friend is a Muslim. Do we think God is mad at her?” I was taken aback by the question. For one, I was touched by my daughter’s concern for her friend, but I was also caught off guard by the thoughtfulness of the question. I had never thought my daughter would process the relationship between our faith and her friends in this way at this early age.
We care deeply about our kids and are rightly protective of them, not wanting them to be introduced to concepts that are too much too soon for them. However, what we consider age-appropriate conversations are often far later than they could’ve been. Our kids are much smarter and more observant than we give them credit for. Plus, according to Common Sense Media, the average child in the U.S. receives his or her first smartphone at age 11. This means kids have access to incredible amounts of information at an early age. So we need to have age-appropriate conversations with our kids, and soon. Here are 5 things your elementary-aged child is not too young to talk about.
My guess is that your elementary-aged child doesn’t have a job. At least I hope not. However, this early age is a great time to begin teaching them principles about money and not just how to spend it wisely but how to think about it well. Talk to your kids about how you make decisions about money. Involve your children in decisions to be generous to others. Talk through why you would say “no” to buying something you like, even if you could afford it, because you have financial goals. All of these conversations and more are extremely helpful when your children are young.
Certainly, you need to gauge what your child is ready for. But he is likely ready to begin talking with you about sex long before you’re ready to talk to him. Again, these need to be age-appropriate conversations, but at a minimum, in elementary school, he needs to learn about healthy relationships with other people. And before he gets that first smart phone, you need to begin talking about what sex is, the context in which it’s appropriate, and what to do if he comes across explicit content online. The earlier you begin these conversations, the less awkward and the more normal they will be.
3. Hard Work
Like I said, your elementary-aged child doesn’t have a job, but she can still learn about the value of hard work. It’s popular today to want to “let kids be kids.” And I get that. There are certainly ways our kids don’t need to grow up too fast. But learning to take responsibility for things and work hard for something they want is a great value to develop when your kids are young. But in order for this to happen you need to be intentional about talking through why you might do something that’s difficult. They won’t understand intuitively why they can’t just have that bike right now or why practice is an essential part of learning how to play a sport. You need to have these conversations with them so that they can learn the why behind them.The key isn’t that you have the right answers but that you encourage the conversation.
4. Loving Your Neighbor
If we want our children to be the kinds of people who move out of their comfort zones to love their neighbors, we need to begin both modeling and discussing it early on. As parents, our fear of a child being left out can drive us to focus on helping him find his friends and stick with them. That’s great; he needs friends. And those can be amazing relationships. But if you want your child to be the kind of person who cares for those outside his friend group, you need to be actively talking with him about that early and often. How is he treating the child who doesn’t really fit in? How is he treating the new kid? Are we simply comfortable allowing our child to be comfortable, or are we willing to push him to care for those outside his comfort zone?
It’s easy for us to think that spirituality isn’t intuitive, that it’s something we have to impose on our child from the outside. But early on, she gets the bigness of the world and the sense of awe all around her. Questions about God come early and often if we’re open to them. It’s never too early to begin helping her understand her place in the world and how your faith informs that. It’s also never too early to create a safe place for her to ask questions about it. Perhaps you’re nervous about that because you feel ill-equipped. Certainly you can connect her with others who can help. But also, the key isn’t that you have the right answers but that you encourage the conversation.
Sound off: What other age-appropriate conversations should you be having with your elementary-aged children?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Has there ever been anything you’ve been afraid to ask me?”