How to Talk to Your Kids About Hard Things

As a momma to three, I know that the world events happening around us can be difficult to discuss with our kids.

When we are having to process how we feel and what we think about certain situations, all while having kids at our feet asking us questions and trying to understand what’s going on as well… it’s just overwhelming.

You want to say the right thing. You want to ensure they feel safe. You want to educate them. You don’t want them to be scared.

It’s a balancing act of what to say and how to say things.

A friend of mine shared the below on Instagram and it really resonated with me. So, I want to share it with you…

Mary Cady Post From Instagram

This got me thinking, I need to educate myself better on how to properly talk with my kids about hard topics.

I decided to reach out to Mary Cady Bolin to see if she’d be open to do an Instagram live to discuss this subject further. Without hesitation, she said absolutely yes!

For those of you who don’t know, Mary Cady and I actually go way back. We were both dance moms, as our daughters took lessons together. I’m beyond grateful for Mary Cady’s friendship and for the insight that she provided me with on our Instagram live.

You can view the full Instagram Live video here. Or, continue reading as I’ve mapped out a synopsis if you’d prefer to read.

Who is Mary Cady Bolin?

Mary Cady is a dear friend, wife, mother of two girls (10 and 16), Children’s Pastor at Church of the Redeemer and Chaplain at Camp Desoto, a Christian summer camp for preteen and teenage girls.

On January 18th, Mary Cady helped this momma break it down on how to talk about hard things with my kiddos. She pointed out the common mistake made by parents (who really do mean well!) right off the bat.

Waiting until the hard things happen to talk to our kids about the hard things is too late.

We, as parents and guardians, must lay the groundwork to have hard conversations.

For example, if a family member suddenly passes away, if you have to move states, if the dog is sick… Life moves so fast and we must prep our children how to handle and talk to us about what they are feeling during tough situations.

Believe it or not, discussing the hard topics begins with us as parents having our very own space.

Which leads to step one…

Step One: Create Space

Catherine Martin at Office Desk

We must create a space that is just for us. Brene Brown says, We cannot give our children what we don’t have.”

By creating space, we are allowing ourselves to connect to our day. We create a quiet time for ourselves to just be. We create a positive mindset that helps us throughout our day.

Mary Cady shares how we cannot have meaningful relationships with other people without knowing ourselves.

So, now that we’ve created space for us at adults, how do we create a safe space for our children?

This will look different depending on your children’s ages but Mary Cady states that for her 10-year-old, as they drive to school they chat about topics, they’ll read a book together that can invoke hard questions and emotions. Then, with her 16-year-old, she’ll actually go in and lay down on her bed at night around 8-9pm.

Mary Cady laughs because while her daughter thinks she’s just being an annoying mom, what she really is doing is opening up a time for conversation. There are nights when her daughter talks about how awful algebra is but then there are those nights when she’ll say Mom, I’m really worried about BLANK or I wonder about BLANK. And, those are the moments Mary Cady has been creating space for.

Another way Mary Cady’s family creates space is through little moments such as dinner dates. Every other weekend, her girls get to rotate who has a dinner date. It’s at these dates that Mary Cady will get to talk about all the things from school, activities, friends, etc.

Mary Cady shares invaluable advice she was once give and it’s to “show up, pay up, and shut up.” During those dinner dates, she isn’t first the speak up, she let’s her daughters begin the conversation because here’s the thing – your children do want to talk to you and they will talk to you if you give them the time of day and space to do so.

As her children have gotten older, it’s neat to see the shift because the dinner date conversations have become two-fold. Her daughters want to know about their mom and how she’s doing. This time is doing so much more than creating space but also teaching them how to be a friend who listens and cares.

This leads me to Mary Cady’s second step for talking through the hard things…

Step Two: Set the Example

One thing that’s been really challenging is teaching kindness and equality. It’s hard to keep the media out of our daily life and when you see it literally dehumanizing people it’s just so gross.

Here’s the thing, neither me or Mary Cady are  racists or homophobic. We are very cautious on how we talk to our kids about the importance of including and loving all people BUT here’s where Mary Cady punched me in the gut…

How do I talk about people that I don’t like such as the mom in the PTA that is just obnoxious or the neighbor that’s always being too loud (insert clinched teeth)????

How are my kids hearing me talk about the people I don’t care for? Am I treating these people with the dignity and respect that they deserve as Children of God, as my equal?

If we don’t deal with our stuff as parents, we might as well put a bow on them and give them to our children.” Ouch.

Catherine Martin with her two girls

We must take the time to realize our flaws and mistakes. It’s okay to go to your children and tell them you’re sorry or admit that you were wrong.

Christy McClennan said, If you are not okay, then I am not okay. And, I won’t be okay until you’re okay.”

By teaching our children to be observant of those around them who are not okay and showing them how to stand up for those who need help, we are setting an example for kindness and equality.

For example, if you’re child noticed someone on the playground who was playing alone, would your child go up to them and include them and befriend them? This is something that we must train our eyes (and hearts) to notice. “If you are not okay, then I am not okay.”

Lastly, to wrap up this point. Mary Cady states if my child gets into a tough situation and they truly do not feel like they can contact me, they have a list of trusted adults with their phone numbers plugged into their phone.

Now, your children may be like mine and not on the cell phone train yet and if that’s the case, it’s important to sit your kids down and let them know who the trusted adults are in their life. Whether it be a fellow pastor, a teacher, a swim coach, their aunt or uncle, etc. Identify those key people so if they do feel like they can’t come to you, you know they are going to someone you respect and trust.

Of course, the main goal is to have them come directly to you and talk to you. Whew! I don’t know about y’all but I’m ready for more heartfelt, real and raw topics like this because I truly believe it’s needed.

If you’re ready for more real, unscripted topics, let me know in the comments. And, if there is a topic that you’d like to see discussed, let me know that, too!

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