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Let’s Talk About Tough Topics with Dr. Adena Borodkin of Golden Valley Kids Pediatric Dentistry in Golden Valley, MN

There are a couple of commemorative days coming up next week that might lead to heavy conversations with your children. Monday is, ’Stand Up to Cancer Day,’ and Wednesday is September 11th. We’ve gathered some information on how to discuss topics that aren’t always easy to talk about.

First, don’t treat it as a secret or taboo subject. Be matter of fact about the topics that arise and check your emotions when reacting to questions from your children. Modeling healthy behavior and emotion is a great way to make your children feel comfortable talking about any topic without fear of negative reaction.

Second, ask them what they know and to explain it to you. In an article found on, ‘The Today Show,’ website, Dr. Lori Walsh suggests letting them take the lead in the beginning of the conversation to avoid sharing more than is necessary for their age. To give them feelings of empowerment, ask them to tell you what they know instead of launching into an explanation.

Clear up misconceptions. Many times, information gleaned by your children comes from bits of information heard from the news or overheard conversations. Be sure to address exaggerations or misconceptions. “(Children) pick up little pieces of information, and then they make up crazy stories because their 4-year-old brains can’t make sense out of it,” explains Walsh. It’s important to correct any misperceptions.

Keep it simple. Use easy to understand language and don’t share concepts that would be difficult to comprehend. For example, five-year olds won’t understand the intricacies of politics and terrorists, or cancer survival rates. Young children probably don’t need to see video of the twin towers or hear about the side effects of chemotherapy.

Make them feel safe by sharing examples of the solutions to issues. For example, we go through airport security so that the TSA can make sure something like 9-11 never happens again. Point out the people who work hard in our communities to protect our safety. Military, police, and firefighters are all working hard to keep us safe. For health topics, assure them by reminding them that we go to the doctor and dentist regularly to make sure we’re healthy, and that if there is something that needs to be treated, we find out early.

Help children feel empowered to help! Join a local cancer walk or write letters of encouragement to our troops! Research products that support causes your children care about. Instead of birthday gifts at their next party, encourage them to raise money for the local humane society or collect books for children in the hospital. Learning about giving back can begin at a very young age. Children are capable of more empathy than most of us realize.

Lastly, give them time to absorb the news and communicate that they can always talk to you.