Addressing Hard Topics With Children
BY DANA WILKERSON, CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
C hildren are certainly unpredictable. When they say something extremely funny, we know what to do – either laugh or try to hide your laughter. But what can we do when they ask questions about a difficult topic? Do you know what to say? If not, don’t worry. You are definitely not alone.
Words are powerful. The way we respond to children and their questions has an effect on how they grow in their faith. But don’t let that scare you, because there is Someone who can help. Rely on the Holy Spirit as your guide. You can trust God with your child and with their questions. The goal is not to provide all the answers. The goal is not even to find all of the answers. The goals are for your child to know Jesus better and to learn they can trust God with their questions – both big and small.
You can trust God with your child and with their questions.
During this year’s study of Genesis, your child will most likely ask some of those hard questions. Rest assured that the BSF materials do not go into detail on these issues with your younger children. But they may still ask you some questions after their BSF lessons.
These are some of the topics that appear in Genesis:
Lesson 7: Racial injustice and drunkenness
Lesson 12: Homosexuality and rape
Lesson 13: Abandonment and divorce
Lesson 22: Rape and slaughter
Lesson 23: Sex and prostitution
Lesson 24: Infidelity
This might feel overwhelming, but we have created a framework that can help you engage in a conversation no matter the topic at hand:
Acknowledge your child’s questions or concerns.
Validate their comments or questions.
Normalize asking questions.
Acknowledge their thinking.
You can say:
“I’m glad you asked that question. We all have questions. Let’s talk about this.”
“I’m impressed by the way you think about this.”
Allow your child to explore the topic.
Clarify or define words or context.
Discover how the topic makes your child feel about themselves, people, or God.
Open up respectful discussion of viewpoints.
You can say:
“Do you know what this word means?”
“How does this make you feel about God?”
“What do you believe about this topic? How do your beliefs affect you?”
Admit we all need God’s help.
Admit you and your child must humbly depend on God together for answers and understanding.
Acknowledge you are still learning.
You can say:
“It is hard to understand how things like this happen. We both need God’s help to see clearly.”
“It feels uncomfortable when people believe different things.”
Affirm a truth about God and/or people.
Give your child a biblical truth to hold onto as they wrestle with the topic.
Connect the discussion to one of God’s attributes.
You can say:
“God’s image in us gives every person worth and purpose. How does that truth encourage you?”
“God is incomprehensible, but He loves it when people seek Him! What do you think about asking God to help you understand Him better?”
Avoid common pitfalls.
Prevent the possibility of your child feeling shame for asking a question.
Do not respond from shock.
Avoid potentially shutting your child down from asking future questions.
Do not make assumptions about what they know or believe.
Do not try to force them to believe something.
Based on your child’s age and stage of development, do not give more information than they need or than they ask for.
Try to avoid saying:
“That is not an appropriate question.”
“You are too young for this topic.”
“How could you doubt that about God?”
“In our family, this is what you must believe.”
We pray this framework helps you guide your children to God for the answers to life’s toughest questions. Thankfully, He is big enough to bring clarity to our confusion. We can rely on His Spirit will provide wisdom and comfort as we walk alongside our children in their spiritual growth.