how to have difficult conversations

The 5 Toughest Things for Children to Talk About with Their Parents

Jeff Sitar started working for a Locksmith when he was twelve years old. During his time there, he read a book about cracking safes and by age fifteen he had cracked his first. Since then, he has become an eight-time champion at the Lockmasters International Manipulation Contest. Several years ago on the Discovery Channel, he cracked a sophisticated bank vault with over a million possible combinations in just over five minutes. How does he do it? It’s a combination of practice and finely tuned senses. The sensitivity in his ears and fingers set him apart.

When it comes to talking about certain subjects, kids can also seem like a locked vault, refusing to open up. However, with the right approach and questioning, any kid will open up. Learning how to have difficult conversations with kids takes practice and listening with all of the senses. Our kids need our guidance, but we can’t give it until we have earned enough trust for them to open up. Here are 5 of the most difficult things to get kids to talk about.

1. Romantic Relationships

This is especially tough when an adolescent first enters the dating, or “talking” world. While you as a father might have some useful advice for your son or daughter, he or she might protest hearing your words of wisdom. To talk to your child about relationships, try engaging in an informal conversation when you’re alone. Avoid deep questions first; start out with asking, “What do you like about (insert name)?” or “What are some activities he/she is involved in?” As your child gets more comfortable, you can begin to share your thoughts and experiences.

Our kids need our guidance, but we can’t give it until we have earned enough trust for them to open up.

2. Sex

This talk will be as awkward and uncomfortable as you appear. If you are comfortable it will make them comfortable. Approach this topic with the knowledge that your child might still be unwilling to communicate, so try not to force him or her into opening up. Start young, before puberty begins and make it a conversation instead of just one talk. Start by asking them questions such as, “Have your friends ever talked about the subject of sex?” or “Do you think they know much about it?” Beginning with a question about their peers takes the pressure off of them because it’s a question about their friends, not them.

3. Bad Influence Friends

Sometimes, it is difficult for kids to talk to their parents about good friends who are making bad choices. For example, if the friend all of a sudden becomes involved with drugs, a child may not bring this unwanted information to her parents automatically. Try having consistent conversations with your children about their friends, and if you sense they may be holding something back, gently ask if their friend has made any recent changes in her lifestyle.

4. Spiritual Questions

If you are raising your children with a knowledge of God, it is natural as they grow up to question some of the things you have taught them. Many kids struggle with asking their parents tough questions about faith because they are afraid you will get mad or take offense. Encourage your kids to ask difficult questions. Then answer your children patiently and honestly without assuming a defensive tone. Use it as an opportunity to seek the truth together, especially when they ask a question you can’t answer. And remember, your children are God’s first, and He has promised to reveal Himself to them in due time.

5. Divorce

If you and your former wife have gone through a messy divorce, do not underestimate how difficult this time is for your children. They have so many questions but may feel awkward about approaching a sensitive topic. If you have young children, they might be confused as to why you and your ex were fighting and shouting all the time. With older kids, it may cause them to assume all relationships will end badly or cause them to lose their faith in marriage. If your family has experienced divorce, take the time to sit down with your children and explain the situation. When you seem open to talking about it, they will feel more comfortable talking about their feelings, too.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Are there things I do that make it harder for you to talk to me?”