Parenting is hardly all sunshine and rainbows. And neither is the world we all live in. Which is why, stressful as it may be, it’s important to talk to kids about difficult topics in age-appropriate ways—and probably earlier than you think.
To help wade through the discomfort of addressing everything from death to climate change to sex, we turned to Emily Barth Isler, the author of AfterMath, a middle grade novel about navigating grief; one that Amy Schumer has called “a gift to the culture.”
While the parents in AfterMath shy away from these conversations, Isler, a mom of two, takes a different approach, drawing influence from the famous Fred Rogers quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Here, she walks us through tackling some of the tougher conversations with a similar approach: Find ways to draw kids in, activate their empathy, and encourage them to get involved.
How to Talk to Kids and Teens About Deadly School Shooting in Texas
Emily Barth Isler: “Let’s be clear, I hate that this article is so necessary, but I do appreciate that it features really clear, age-specific ways to start conversations with kids about school shootings. As someone who wrote a book that deals with this topic, I often hear from people who think it’s inappropriate to talk about these things with kids. But let’s be clear:
What’s inappropriate for kids is gun violence—gun violence in schools, churches, synagogues, grocery stores—all places they deserve to feel safe. When I wrote AfterMath, I hoped that it would soon be shelved in the Historical Fiction section of the library; I’m devastated that it continues to land squarely in current events. And will, until lawmakers do what’s necessary to make the violence stop.”
Michael Schur Knows Moral Philosophy Can Be a Drag. With ‘The Good Place,’ He Made It Fun.
Emily Barth Isler : “The first step towards getting comfortable talking to kids about hard things is to get comfortable with those things yourself. Historically, American culture has often favored the “let’s pretend that’s not a thing” mentality when it comes to death and other tough stuff. I’d like to present another angle.
What if we dive in? What if we get vulnerable and honest with ourselves, and find a way to make some peace with things like the inevitability of death? I love how artists confront mortality, and the genius TV writer/creator Mike Schur does such a great job of doing so in the most hilarious, moving, brilliant way with his show, The Good Place.”
Be Honest and Concrete: Tips for Talking to Kids About Death Cory TurnerAnya Kamenetz NPR
Emily Barth Isler : “Kids have excellent bullsh*t detectors. They tend to know when we’re lying—or even just withholding truth—and it can damage their trust in us. I’m not saying that you have to include all the details you would give a 30 year old when talking to a 10 year old, but if honesty is the foundation, you’re in good shape.
I appreciate this article because it gives parents very clear step-by-step instructions to get through the tough parts, it helps to be able to lean on that structure.”
Standing up for Our Children With Courage, Faith & Love Nelba Marquez-Greene TEDxCCSU
Emily Barth Isler : “The survivors of tragedies do not owe us their stories or wisdom. But sometimes, something horrible will bring our attention to a bright light in the world, someone who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and brilliant. Nelba Marquez-Greene, my favorite Twitter follow, is one of these lights. She is such a vulnerable, honest voice, and I—an adult!—have found so much comfort in her faith and resilience.
She’s a therapist, but also lost her daughter, Ana Grace, in the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, so I find that she’s able to give multiple perspectives on life, death, and grief. Her TEDx talk has advice directed at teachers and teachers-in-training, but I think it translates very well to parents, too.”
By: Emily Barth Isler
Emily Barth Isler lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and their two kids. A former child actress, she performed all over the world in theatre, film, and TV. In addition to books, Emily writes about sustainable, eco-friendly beauty and skincare, and has also written web sitcoms, parenting columns, and personal essays. She has a B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University, and really, really loves television. Her debut novel, AfterMath, is out now; learn more at emilybarthisler.com.
Source: How to Talk to Kids About Hard Things: A Reading Guide
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