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Talking to Kids About Hard Things: A Parent's Guide

By Sunitha Chandy PsyD

It's okay not to have all the answers; what matters is showing our children that we are there for them and willing to navigate these difficult topics together. -Dr. Sunitha Chandy

Hi, my name is Dr. Sunitha Chandy. I'm a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder of Artesian Collaborative. I'm also a mom of two amazing boys. Like many of us caregivers, I've had to talk to my kids about some pretty hard things in the past several years.

Why We Need to Talk

As caregivers, most of us have been in situations where we've had to talk to our kids about mass acts of violence, critical incidents in our communities, or even personal issues within our families involving loss or death. In these situations, we often wish we could just avoid talking about it or shield our children from it. However, we live in a world where our kids have access to information. When we can't talk to them, they'll get that information from peers and their community. So, I want to give you a few tips on how to communicate with your children when these difficult situations occur.

Taking Care of Ourselves

The first step really starts with us. How are we, as caregivers, taking the time to identify how we're doing? What are our own feelings and responses to the situation? How are we gathering our own resources to take care of ourselves and our families? Our first step typically involves looking out for the people we need to take care of. If we're not taking care of ourselves, we won't be very useful to the children in our lives.

Starting the Conversation

From there, consider how to talk to your kids. Children often respond well to simple information tailored to their age. Start by stating the facts, then pause and ask your kids if they have any questions. Oftentimes, this opens the door for them to ask questions about what they've seen and heard, allowing you to gauge how much information to provide.

Being Patient

Don't be surprised if your kids don't start the conversation with lots of questions. Like adults, children need time to process information. Even if they don't have questions initially, let them know they can talk to you anytime. Check in with them after a couple of days. Opening the door for your children to talk may lead to questions arising at unexpected times.

Embracing Uncertainty

When questions come up, you might feel scared as an adult, thinking you need to have all the answers. It's okay to admit when you don't have answers, especially in situations involving mass violence or racial injustice. Show your children that it's okay not to know everything. Validate the difficulty of the information, express uncertainty, and use your skills, values, and support to navigate through it.

Thinking Critically

Teach your kids how to think critically about questions they may have. Acknowledge good questions and take time to think through and evaluate them. Sometimes, it's okay not to have a definitive answer. What matters is demonstrating the importance of thinking critically about complex issues.

Seeking Support

The next step is to continue reaching out for support. In emotional situations, finding spaces to gather together and feel safe and connected is crucial. If you're uncertain about how to talk to those you care about, consider reaching out to a therapist or support group in your community. Artesian Collaborative offers resources to help support you through these challenges.


Talking to kids about difficult topics can be challenging, requiring empathy, patience, and open-mindedness. By taking care of ourselves, initiating conversations, embracing uncertainty, and seeking support, we can create an environment where our children feel safe expressing their feelings and asking questions. Remember, it's okay not to have all the answers; what matters is showing our children that we are there for them and willing to navigate these difficult topics together. Let's collaborate to build stronger communities where everyone can thrive.


Let's talk about the hard stuff.

Artesian Collaborative is a mental health practice based in Chicago. We excel at guiding individuals and teams through tense and difficult topics - and helping them feel good about it.

Our therapists provide mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families. Our team also leads corporate and community trainings in the areas of Stress Management, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and Relational Leadership.


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