How to talk to your kids about important issues

There’s no doubt about it – raising kids is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but as every parent, carer and support person will tell you, also one of the hardest.

As Chief Happiness Officer at The Happiness Institute and clinical psychologist Dr Tim Sharp says, “We all want to be the best parents we can be but what does this even mean? And how do we achieve it?”

“Even if we think we’ve mastered parenting, our children grow and change and before we know it there’s a new issue we need to understand and wrap our heads around.

“Also, at certain stages of development our children will want to engage in behaviours we won’t always agree with; and this can lead to disagreements and arguments.”

So how can parents navigate these potential minefields with minimum distress and anger? Well, it’s not always going to be a walk in the park says Dr Sharp, but it is going to be easier if we keep our cool.

“We can’t and shouldn’t try to eliminate all emotions, but the more we can stay in control the more likely we’ll be to arrive at a desirable outcome,” he counsels.

“Always remember to be prepared to listen; there’s nothing more satisfying that feeling like we’re being heard and that our opinions are being respected.

“Finally, instead of seeing it as a ‘battle’, try to work with your partner and your child in a constructive way. Work towards defining a positive, mutually agreeable outcome and then establishing practical steps you can all take to get there.”

And how about tackling the big subjects like bullying, sex and death when talking to your kids?

Dr Sharp admits this is challenging but says we need to go in with the mindset there will be some difficulties. “This isn’t being negative, just realistic,” he says.

“Know that just making an attempt to talk about these important issues will be beneficial in and of itself. One of the most important messages we need to send our children is that problems are more easily overcome if we talk about them with others; if we seek and accept help.

“Don’t necessarily expect your children to always agree with you. In fact, by definition, they probably won’t! But that’s OK. Discussing differences, as calmly and maturely as possible, is all part of the process of parenting.”

Here are Dr Sharp’s three top tips for conversing with your kids:

  1. First and foremost, listen – seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  2. Keep your cool!
  3. You don’t always have to agree with your kids to be supportive and caring.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Jo, Ed, and the team.