How to Talk With Your Kids ... About Anything
Tips for topics large and small

By Carol Hildebrand


Tips for topics large and small Every parent has fumbled to answer the verbal curveballs that kids throw our way: “Mom, will our house ever burn down?” or “Daddy, where do babies come from?” Often, parents opt for a vague non-answer or shut down the line of inquiry entirely, sending the inadvertent message that questions are Bad Things.

How can we learn to talk with our children rather than at them? Child development specialist Betsy Brown Braun, author of the new book Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parent (Collins, 2008), offers some basic tactics for solid communication when dealing with young children.

• First, she says, respect the question. “When a child comes to you with a question, consider it a gift,” says Braun. “We want kids to come to us instead of finding things out from Google or a neighbor.” Tell your child that it’s a great question and you are glad that she asked. Make sure to turn from whatever you are doing and get down on her level to talk face to face.

• Next, make sure you are answering the right question. “When a child asks questions, the first thing to do is to figure out what the child is really asking,” she says. “It’s often not what’s coming out of his mouth.”

• Finally, know when to hold your tongue. “Almost every parent I know talks too much,” says Braun. “Children absorb by the drip method – what we need to do is give our kids a little information and then stop.”

How will these steps work in real life? Let’s look at some familiar situations.

Rudeness in Public

Questions about Sex

Sibling Bickering

Fear of Natural Disasters