Highlands Blog

How to Talk to Your Kids about Sensitive Topics

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Posted in Highlands Blog under Family, Parenting

A Dad talking to his son.

The most fruitful conversations we have with our children are unplanned and occur in the normal context of life.

This last week a friend told me a story of when he was part of a men’s (and boys’) study I recently led and how he watched me react when the touchy subject of sex came up. This particular touchy subject would have been no big deal were it not for the fact that four of our boys, ages eighteen, seventeen, fourteen, and twelve, were sitting in on the study and taking part in the conversation and he was concerned how I would handle things with my children present.

Dealing with “Touchy” Subjects

When subjects that are delicate, tricky, or perhaps even embarrassing surface while our children are around, the two knee-jerk reactions most of us fall into are:

  1. To blaze ahead, speaking as though our children aren’t even there.
  2. To avoid saying anything while our kids are around. Either we excuse them from the room so that we can keep talking, or we simply stop talking about it.

The first reaction is undiscerning and leads to children with no sense of propriety. The second is also undiscerning and leads to children that don’t know how to discuss sensitive topics appropriately.

There are, of course, times when a particular subject should be discussed privately, not only for the benefit of children, but for adults as well. Propriety in conversation is loving your neighbor.

Kara and I have never been fans of sheltering our children from tough or delicate conversations, because this is the very place where learning happens most effectively. When a topic arises and it’s necessary to go deeper, young ones that aren’t able to handle the topic are excused, but every one who is old enough to be reasoned with is allowed to stay in the conversation and take part as able. We answer questions, address the topic openly and biblically without mincing words and without embarrassment—this has been particularly helpful as our children have grown older.

Unplanned & Ordinary Conversations

This friend who shared his experience with me had to remind me of the conversation. I had forgotten it, because it didn’t stand out to me as anything out of the ordinary. It was just another conversation—no red faces or shifting seats. It came up; we talked about it, touching on the biblical application, and moved on. This friend, who is one of the most perceptive I’ve come across, said he was a little nervous for me, concerned that the conversation had taken a turn out of my control, and he was curious to see what both I and my boys would do. What he witnessed was a non-event. And that non-event became to him the main event of the evening.

That particular conversation was the next non-event in the providence of God for our life together, and isn’t that exactly where God teaches us most of what we learn as we apply his Word to life and conversation?

Occasionally, family meetings are necessary. Sometimes a big to-do needs to be made about a particular topic, but for the most part we aren’t into all that drama. We prefer conversation, unplanned and in the context of real life.


This article was published in the May 2015 issue of Every Thought Captive magazine. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

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