Well, here’s the thing, from the time that our kids are old enough to carry on a conversation with us that doesn’t just involve whether or not they have a poopy diaper, or what color bowl they would like for their snack.
From that age, until, basically we’re dead, conversations with our children are ongoing. So our children, they grow, and they develop and they change as individuals and as people within the context of themselves and in the context of relationships.
And that includes their relationship with God. So starting at a young age, around three or four, at an age appropriate level, it is so important to create a safe space to have ongoing conversations with your kids about anything, and everything.
Now, one of my best friends is a mother to an incredible teenage daughter, and I have always from afar admired her parenting and how she has fostered this exact type of relationship with her daughter where everything’s an ongoing conversation, and nothing is off limits.
So I actually asked her for this talk. I asked her what is her approach? What was it early on with her daughter?
And she shared that when her daughter was born, a mentor of hers shared with her the importance of creating a safe, open place for her daughter. And that in order to do that she as a mother had to explain everything. So when her daughter was little like a baby, the mom, she would say, this is a lamp, it is used to light up a room. This is how you turn on the lamp.
And no matter how silly it seemed to explain the purpose of a lamp to a baby, she did it. Because what it did was it set the foundation for an open, honest, and trust-filled relationship.
And it also allowed for her as a mother to practice explaining things to her daughter that are not scary so that later she could be better equipped to explain more difficult topics. So when kids are very young, you explain things to them at an age appropriate level.
[embedded content]Younger kids are very literal, so you want to use a lot of reassuring words and gestures. You want to break things down in simple terms and talk a lot about feelings. But as your kids get older, you can start to really address their curiosity.
You create this safe space for discussion—you reassure them that they’re not in trouble. And that there are no consequences for asking questions. And also begin to ask them questions. Find out what they know, so that you can provide context, perspective, and correction where needed.
And then when your kids enter the tween and teen years, this is actually the time for you as a parent to talk less and listen more. The stage where your kids are starting to form their own beliefs very slowly is in these years. And so as a parent, you want to be on that journey with your child.
In order to get invited on that journey with your child as they learn and grow and change and develop, this is where you have to listen more than you talk. But remember, above all, God created your child. God knows way more about your child than you do, than they do.
So if you want the most insider information on the heart and mind of your child, you should probably talk to the one who knows your child best, the Lord. So right now ask the Holy Spirit how to handle a particular situation or conversation with your child.
Ask him to lead you when you are parenting your child. Ask him to give you the words to speak and the ear to hear when it comes to a difficult conversation with your child—the Holy Spirit knows exactly what your child’s heart and mind are ready to hear. So you need to take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with those words.
Which leads us into the foundation. Number two, no topic is off limits. So why is nothing off limits? Because guess what, the one thing that you think your kids are never going to hear about, or never going to ask about is absolutely going to be the one thing that they do. Anything, any topic, that your children perceive as off limits, is something that the enemy can and absolutely will use against them.
The enemy is on the prowl—he wants to steal, kill, and destroy, and he wants to come between you and your children. He wants to come between your children and their relationship with their heavenly Father. So anything that the enemy can use to keep your children from speaking up, to allow them to feel shame, will absolutely put a wedge between your kids and you and ultimately, your kids and the Lord.
So you as a parent, be the parent that absolutely refuses to let the enemy have any foothold on your children. So that means no topic is off limits, alcohol and drugs. Talk about it. Sex and sexuality. Talk about it. Human trafficking, talk about it. Racism, talk about it. Media, talk about it. Pornography, talk about it. Death, talk about it. You name it—name, the awkward thing, talk about it.
Again, like I said, you approach these topics as ongoing conversations that change as your kids get older. Your kids don’t need to be scarred for life. But you also don’t need to hide these things from them.
These topics, all these things your kids are going to find out about them eventually. So why not have them learn about these things from you in a God-honoring biblical way, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Looking for other resources on tackling tough conversations?
How to tackle tough topics with your kids
Talking About Sex: Big Words for Little Ears
How to Talk to Your Kids about the Border Wall (Or Any Social Issue)
The college domino effect started a few years ago in our house. With five kids, we knew it loomed on the horizon since the days when they were little tykes, convinced that swimming in a plastic pool in the front yard was as close to paradise as one could get. Now those early years of...
© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved A mother’s voice has special power. It can provide comfort — and improve outcomes — for babies hospitalized in the NICU. It can shape the way infants process language in the brain. And it can help children cope with pain and stress. What happens when a baby...