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8 Tips on how to talk to your child about difficult things

BY Finn + Ali
Co-founders of The Positive Planner Ali + Finn smiling at the camera

Talking to our children about world events can be daunting. Read our tips on how to get started.


The world feels quite heavy right now, doesn't it? And whilst we might like to think our children are blissfully unaware, it's surprising how much even very young children can pick up on what's happening.

Our children should always have the opportunity to talk about scary and difficult stuff and if we react to their questions in the right way, it will give them the confidence to share their feelings in the future. We want them to feel it's absolutely OK to talk about these things.

But as a parent or caregiver it can be overwhelming, can't it? How do you even start? It's hard enough for us to understand and articulate our own feelings sometimes, so how do you bring up the subject with our children? So if you're struggling to know how to talk to the little people in your life about what's going on in the world right now, we've got some tips on how you can go about it. 


1: Think about how

Finding the right moment isn’t always easy and the actual when and where will depend very much on your child. Sitting down ‘to talk’ might be too formal or even make everything more scary, so think about introducing another activity parallel to take the pressure off.

Some children respond well to a walk and talk whereas younger children might benefit from talking while doing a colouring activity that naturally relaxes them.


2: Meet your child where they are

We don’t always know where our children get their information; these days it can be the playground, social media or simply their own imagination.

It’s therefore crucial that we don’t make assumptions about what they know about the situation. Ask them questions and find out what they already understand and build on that.


3: Give them the facts

We want our children to feel confident in knowing they can reach out about difficult or scary topics.

But what can we do to help build this confidence? If we give a child clear and honest age-appropriate explanations of what’s happening and communicate that it’s OK to talk about these things, they'll learn that their worries and thoughts are valid and OK.  

Try reading or watching a news source that you trust together (make sure you’ve seen it first). You can then use this as an spring board to talk about and explain what’s happening.


4: Let them know it’s normal to feel worried

Everyone, young and old, feels worried about what goes on in the world at times and it’s important we let our children know that this is completely normal.

You can tell them you worry sometimes, but keep it in perspective - make sure they know that you can see that it doesn’t mean anything bad is going to happen to you, your friends or loved ones.

It’s important they leave the conversation knowing that while bad things can happen, they don’t happen very often and so there’s no need to be scared all the time.


5: Find a happy medium

Sharing too much or doing all you can to hide the facts can be unhelpful.

So don’t turn off the news if your child appears while the TV's on or your laptop’s open but do be conscious of how much your child is exposed to.

We know how it goes - if something becomes a secret, we immediately want to know more and our imagination can run riot.



6: Choose the right time

Talking about world events isn't something you can squeeze in between cooking the dinner and doing the ironing, but a child doesn’t necessarily have perfect timing - how often do you get to go to the loo on your own with young children around?!

If your child starts asking questions at a difficult time, let them know you’ve heard them and that you understand how important it is for them but that you want to answer their questions when you can both sit quietly and really listen. Just make sure you keep your promise to revisit it, though and let them know they can remind you.


7: Encourage questions

Children can often misunderstand things - goodness, even many of us adults are confused by what goes on in the world sometimes!

So be prepared for this and allow your child to ask questions - even the same one repeatedly. Be patient and let them know it’s OK to be unsure. Tell them that you get confused sometimes too!




8: Tell the truth

We want our children to feel safe and secure so it’s natural we might want to bend the truth at times to make them feel better.

While we know this comes from a place of love, it’s not always beneficial to a child as it can cause confusion and distrust. A better way forward is to be as honest as you think is OK for them.

And this goes for when we don’t know an answer to their questions too - say you don’t know but you’ll try and find the answer for them.


And finally... end on a positive

Whilst things may be incredibly hard and scary right now, there are many positives that we can teach our children about to end the conversation on a positive.

Talk about how people are helping each other, what support organisations are doing and also the fact that so many countries in the world don’t support what is happening and are trying to find a positive and peaceful solution.



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