My two kids are seven years old, and they came to us at ages 4 and 5 through foster care. Unfortunately, our kids were positioned to talk about difficult topics at an earlier age than most kids because they've just seen and experience more than most young kids. On the flip side, though, this has allowed us to maybe be more forthcoming with our kids about current events than we normally would.
A few years ago I read Bob Goff's book, Love Does. In it, he mentions that he and his wife chose to talk about difficult topics and current events with their kids right away so their kids hear about these things from them and not the media or their friends. We've adopted this belief. Some would see this as destroying our kids' innocence early, but I see a huge benefit to being open with our kids: When we talk with our kids early about tough stuff, we have some control in how we present the information. In our home, we try to present all information through the lens of the Gospel. When we talk with our kids about acts of violence, and when we try and help them understand why someone would take another person's life (because their initial question is always, WHY?!?)--we remind them of the power of sin and temptation, of what happens when a person doesn't truly understand Jesus. When we talk with our kids about acts of violence driven by revenge, we help them understand how a person could be susceptible to revenge (we all are), but we remind them of how the power of Holy Spirit can help us overcome a spirit of revenge.
|Super cute hipster baby because...why not?!?|
Finally, we use books to talk about tough issues. When we started our adoption journey many years ago, I began collecting books that featured people of different colors, sizes, family backgrounds, etc. They didn't always have themes of social justice, but they portrayed diversity, and I think that's important. All kids need exposure to diversity; I can't think of any downfalls to exposing our kids to diversity in the literature we read to them. As our kids have aged and matured, I've started introducing them to books that are more clearly related to social justice (both fiction and non-fiction). Books can take us places we never imagined we'd go, introduce us to people we would normally never meet, stretch our imaginations, grow our capacity for empathy, and make us feel emotions we've never felt before. The really good books encourage conversation. So, I seek out good books for my kids. I let them scour the library shelves and find their own books, but during our trips to the library, I also hunt through the shelves for books my kids normally wouldn't pick. I read their monthly book orders as feverishly as my kids do, and I keep lists of things to read with them over the years. It's a nerdy habit, but it's one that has paid off with my kids. Some of our most interesting conversations together over both silly and serious things have occurred over books. Click here for a list of books that are sure to open up conversations about social justice issues.
Talking with our kids about tough issues is...well, tough and heartbreaking, but it can also be transformative as we help our kids make sense of and engage in the world around them. Right now, the world seems like a real crap-hole, but we cannot expect our world to change if we don't do anything to make change. If you work with children or young adults in any capacity, then you have an amazing opportunity to engage with the world by engaging your children with the world. Find a way that works best for you and your kids that meets them where they're at and honors who they are while also pushing them to