There is so much going on in our country right now socially, that I feel like someone has just placed a soapbox in front of me and dared me to climb up. Never one to resist, let's talk about parenting in shifting sands.
Talking to your kids (of all ages) about a variety of topics is so important in parenting. A lot has happened in the U.S. last week that will affect them... because other kids are discussing it at school/camp... because it changes the world they live in... because it may personally effect them or their family. Anyone who has ever attended a lunch-and-learn with me knows I am a big fan of capitalizing on current events as a strategy to bring up those difficult topics with your kids. Having conversations on a variety of topics also let's your child know that those topics are not off limits in your household.
A note about "my child knows they can talk to me about anything." Whenever I hear a parent say this it concerns me. If you haven't explicitly brought up a topic with your child, your child does not know they can talk to you about that topic and they probably won't. Bringing up difficult topics is, well, difficult. But if we can't do it as adults (thereby modeling and teaching our children how), we shouldn't expect them to be able to do it.
So how might a parent use the events of the last week to launch a discussion? In this blog I am going to use the Marriage Equality Act as an example. Racism and the confederate flag is another topic I discussed with my daughter. Since she is 15, we also discussed the murders in SC and the Affordable Care Act. I think it is easier to bring up topics with older kids and teens, so I am going to use language that would be appropriate for younger kids in my example.
1- Bring up the topic/event:
"Has anyone in your school talked about the changes last week in who can marry each other?"
2- Answer your child's questions about things they have heard.
3- Tell them what your opinion is and how it reflects the values in your family.
"Your Uncle Bob loves your Uncle Chris and now they will be able to get married. We are so happy for them." or "I was disappointed that the rules changed. I don't believe it is ok for 2 men to marry each other."
4- Talk to them about how to treat other people whose values are different.
"You know our neighbor, Mary? She lives with Samantha and they are a couple. Even though I don't agree that girls should marry other girls, we should still love them and be kind to them." or "Your Aunt Sue is Uncle Bob's sister. She and Uncle Bob don't talk to each other because she doesn't believe it is ok for Uncle Bob and Uncle Chris to be in love. We still love Aunt Sue though and we hope that someday she and Uncle Bob will find a way to be friends again."
5- Talk to your child about what will happen if they ever disagree with your values.
"Someday when you are older you might decide that you think (fill in the blank as long as it is different than your value). If that happens I want to hear why you changed your mind and keep talking about it. I will always love you even if you don't agree with me so don't ever be afraid to tell me what you think and how you feel."
This step is the same no matter what the topic or what your stance on the topic is. This step is the most important step of all. This step will determine if you child really will "tell you anything."
Will someone bring me a step stool so I can climb down now?