Talking with Children about Hard Topics

Talking with Children about Hard Topics

“Your ministry of presence is vital in these difficult times. In times of tragedy, people, especially young people, look to their leadership for how to respond.”

 

 

 

Writing this post in the first week of Advent, we have in our minds the text from the Gospel of Mark, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘In those days, after that suffering…'”

In the same week, many parents and church formation leaders are asking how and when to talk with children about the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

On the one hand, there is no “one-size fits all” recipe for such difficult and complicated discussions. On the other hand, the following pieces offer wisdom regarding children, the news, and caring conversations. We may not be experts, but sometimes we cannot let that prevent us for opening up to the children in our care.

1. “The Power of Showing Up” by Danielle Dowd
“This is the hardest and most important step. Show up. These conversations are difficult but we absolutely need to have them. Your ministry of presence is vital in these difficult times. In times of tragedy, people, especially young people, look to their leadership for how to respond.

You are part of their faith community. You have made promises together, in baptisms. You have eaten at the Lord’s table together. You have worshipped alongside each other. Because you have been present already in their lives in those ways, you are now called to continue your ministry of presence by giving youth and children an opportunity to wrestle with these difficult questions and emotions.”
– Danielle Dowd, diocesan youth missioner for the Diocese of Missouri, from her resource document

2. Talking with Kids about News – Strategies for Talking and Listening from PBS Parents
“Explain simply. Give children the information they need to know in a way that makes sense to them. At times, a few sentences are enough. ‘A good analogy is how you might talk about sex,’ adds Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed. D. ‘You obviously wouldn’t explain everything to a 5-year-old. Talking about violence and safety is similar.'”
– PBS Parents website

3. Use books when you can’t find your own words
A good place to start discussing how race divides us is with Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side. This lyrical picture book tells the story of Clover and Annie, who are told by their parents they are not allowed to cross the fence between their yards. The girls discover their similarities and develop a friendship…even figuring out a way to be with each other without being disobedient. Woodson says, “I wanted to tell how powerful kids can be…We all have that power.”

 


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