How to talk about difficult topics

Regularly talking with and listening to your children helps them to know they can talk with you about the positive and the more challenging parts of their lives. Let them know that any topic is “OK to bring up” even if you don’t have the answers, the important thing you are there to listen and creating a situation where you can address the issues together. 

Top tips

  • Make yourself available for side-by-side chats (e.g. a walk, or while travelling in the car). This is a more relaxed way to have a conversation and enables your children to feel more comfortable talking with you about difficult topics because you are not face-to-face.  
  • Acknowledge any discomfort. For example, “I can see this is a bit uncomfortable for you to talk about” and then highlight that you are there to listen and support them. 
  • Be calm and listen without interrupting. Especially with older children, you don’t have to always solve their problems, but they often need a sounding board to work out how they will deal with the problem themselves.
  • Show them you are listening. Rephrase to show you are really listening – “Okay so what you are saying is…” “Yes, I can see that you are feeling (pretty upset, annoyed) about that”, I can see that is a problem that is … (tricky, difficult, upsetting). 
  • Praise your child for opening up to you. “I am proud of you” “I know that was really hard for you” 
  • Offer support. Ask “What can I do to help?”, “Can I suggest something?” or “Would you like me do something to help you”.  
  • Be there. Always let your child know that you will check in with them to see how they are feeling and how things are going. Let them know that they can come to you and talk some more at any time. 

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