The Easy Way to Talk to Your Kids About 3 Major “Controversial” Topics

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Have you ever bumped into one of those “Oh sh*t, how do I even answer that?” questions from your kids? (Don’t lie to yourself; we all have.) Well, I’ve had a few of those in the last couple of months, and with Little B starting school this year, I needed to decide if I felt like she was well prepared for this whole new level of public socialization. Below are the top 3 things I’ve been focusing on carrying on a dialogue about with her, and I think every kid should understand them, “controversial” or not, to some extent before they start school.

Lessons are learned through an ongoing dialogue, but you have to start one first, and this is how we started ours on our 3 main focus points for the year:

1. Religion

In our state, is one of the first lines of conversation. Utah is predominantly LDS, but Daddy is an atheist, and I focus more on my spirituality, so this has never really been a major teaching point for us. She doesn’t go to church, and we don’t discuss it with her unless she brings it up. However, knowing that she’ll inevitably be questioned about this, it seemed time to have the conversation. It was actually really straightforward – as things often are with toddlers.

Simplified Version: “Some people believe in a god, some people don’t, and that’s okay. You’re allowed to believe in whatever feels right to you, and you can take your time making up your mind,” was all that needed to be said.

Book Recommendation:
The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy]
love this book. It focuses on three questions that we all find ourselves asking: ‘When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?’ Definitely worth a read, for toddlers and teens alike.

Other Resources:
How to Talk to Kids About Religion by Lisa Miller, Ph. D
Relax It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious by Wendy Thomas Russell (A personal favorite!)
Raising Spiritually-Full Children Without a Specific Religion by Wendy Davies Mennes

2. The LGBTQ+ Community

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, this subject was a very important one to address. Knowing that I started recognizing my sexuality in grade school and have had friends with non-hetero parents for most of my life, I wanted to make sure that she was comfortable with and understood the basic principle.

Simplified Version: “You have a mommy and a daddy, and some other kids have two mommies or two daddies. There isn’t really a difference.”

Book Recommendation:
And Tango Makes Three
Based on a true story, two male penguins in a New York Zoo are given an egg and raise it together, creating a normalized non-hetero family portrayal that delivers a clear message without being preachy. It’s Little B’s favorite!
and
Red: A Crayon’s Story
Red, a crayon that only colors in blue, is on a mission of accepting his identity and ignoring the doubtful and unsupportive comments of his friends and family, ultimately finding self-acceptance. It can be used to teach a variety of messages, which I talked about a bit more in the review I wrote on it

Other Resources:
How to Talk to Kids About the New Normal by Dr. Peggy Dexler
How to Start Talking About Gender Diversity with Kids of All Ages by Elizabeth Sutherland
5 Tips for Explaining a Transgender Family to Your Kids by Kendra Gayle Lee

3. Gender Roles

I hear that Little B likes “girl colors” far more than I wish I did, so this one has been a big teaching focus for us. Everything tells our kids what their role in life is supposed to be: the media, the grocery store, our family, their friends… It becomes overwhelming and incredibly hard to fight. Constant reminders and consistency are a powerful force though, and it’s all we’ve got.

Simplified Version: “There’s no such thing as boy/girl clothes, toys, games, or sports. You can be whoever you want to be, wear whatever you want to wear, and play with whatever you want to play with.”

Book Recommendation:
10,000 Dresses
10,000 Dresses is about a boy who happens to absolutely love dresses, but his parents keep telling him that boys shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all. Then he makes a friend named Laurel who helps him accept and embrace his passion by designing dresses
and teaches him that boys can do anything girls can.

Other Resources:
How to Talk to Your Kids About Gender Roles by Arti Patel
How to Teach Your Child About Gender Equality and Sexism by Molly Pennington, Ph. D

 

There is no easy way to make a child fully understand the depth of these issues, but there’s always a way to start the conversation. Test these methods out for yourself and let me know how it goes!

 

 

5 Comments
  1. I think it’s great you’ve come up with things to help talk about these major topics. We (husband and I) have been discussing these very issues along with race, we want to create age appropriate talks for our kids when they are ready. Great start mom!

    1. Thank you! I’d love to know how you guys have been going about discussing race! We’re a multicultural house in a lot of different ways, so it never occurred to me to discuss it, but maybe we should!

      1. We just explore differences. We express the reality and what we would like for it to look like. We explain that everyone is different and that doesn’t necessarily make them bad, just different. I’ve only read adult material on the subject. If I find one I like for children I’ll let you know.

    1. Amen to that! When we started these discussions a lot of our family members thought we were loony (or “pushing a social agenda too soon”), but we knew that at the end of the day, not everyone raises their children the way we raise ours, and we want them having an understanding with us about these issues before they’re exposed to outside opinions.

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