It is important that when you talk to children about difficult topics as they grow up, you use a non-judgmental tone and keep in mind they are still learning.
Unfortunately, social media and easy access to the internet can introduce young people to harmful beliefs and behaviour. If a young person is influenced and develops harmful beliefs you need an appropriate way to challenge the beliefs and teach them how to behave in a healthy and ethical manner.
Ensuring young people have someone they can have an open discussion about sensitive topics as well as challenging beliefs that could harm other people, helps guide them to being good people without fear of being judged, humiliated or punished along the way.
So how can you discuss difficult topics with children?
- Plan how you are going to approach the topic
- Would it be easier to watch a show or attend a talk on the topic or simply have a one-to-one discussion?
- Could you do an activity while you explore a topic? Could be as simple as a walk or whilst drawing
- Do you need to get external support? Either from mental health services or from a speaker on the subject?
- Make them feel comfortable
- Show you are listening to them and answer them honestly
- Don’t be judgemental and use a neutral tone
- Be age-appropriate and clear, state what you mean and avoid inferring or using innuendos
- Let them know about what you can and cannot keep confidential, particularly if they are at risk to themselves or others
- Read their body language, stop and offer comfort if it gets overwhelming, you can always come back to the topic
- Follow up the conversation where appropriate
- Is there a journal, leaflet or another resource that can help?
- Do not be afraid to admit if you do not know the answer, you can always do your own research and come back to the topic in a follow-up discussion
Keep in mind it may take time for a young person to move away from a harmful behaviour or belief, so have patience and don’t worry if you have to discuss the topic multiple times.
There is a whole range of topic that put young people at risk or affects their mental health which can be difficult to tackle, the most recent example is Andrew Tate who has been promoting toxic masculinity and domestic violence. Following our tips above as well as doing further research helps create the best chance at challenging and creates an understanding of why this is wrong.
Other topics that may arise during your time caring for and parenting a young person include climate change, discrimination, sex, self-harm, abortion and more, which may appear overwhelming, but there will be online resources to help you find the best approach.
Here is a link to an article that helps provide guidance on discussing some of these topics:
Challenging harmful beliefs in young people is usually not an easy task, which is why we look for resilient and patient people to be our foster carers. If you are interested in making the world a better place for young people, consider if fostering is right for you.
Get in touch to find out more about fostering, we are more than happy to answer any questions you have.