Living naturally, most of the time.

Making the scary or different okay

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Having my child in a Waldorf preschool helped me learn to hold my tongue and listen to what sense my son made of things. As much as I wanted to explain and answer, I came to understand the value in hearing out his thinking. Sometimes I assumed things meant more or something completely different to him than I expected. If I didn’t first pause with a “Hmm… I wonder” or a direct, “What do you think” and then really listen to his response, whatever I would say might be totally inappropriate.

When my son first referenced someone as a color, I freaked out before I realized he identified them by the color of their shirt, as in “the purple guy.” This made it clear to me that any kind of nuanced conversations about “race” were far in our future. He’s only in first grade now, and I find myself questioning the wisdom of the messages he is getting at public school about things like Martin Luther King and segregation when there he is in a class — here in the diverse D.C. suburbs — with kids whose parents are from at least half a dozen countries.

It’s kind of like not thinking something is just for girls or “sissies” until someone gives you that idea or teaches you that word, even if they are trying to criticize stereotypes. My degree in women’s studies and my background in critical pedagogy (that talked about making the debates and questions transparent) are sometimes at odds with what now seems developmentally appropriate as the parent of a six-year-old and a two-year-old.

The more I listen, the more I learn. And yet, I’m a talker. And I do care that my son knows my opinion about some things. So when he asks me if I think there should be slavery (!), I  have a hard time not screaming and going off on a lecture. But would that do him any good or make him any more clear on the concept of discrimination and racism? I think not. And so I muddle, starting in and then backtracking to hear his side before I make assumptions.

Now, when it comes to things like tragedy and death, I am most guided by the fact that my boy is incredibly sensitive. I’ve had at least three practitioners tell me through energy work that he feels more than his fair share; he has fuzzy boundaries between his own “stuff” and other people’s. We’re working on some woo-woo ways to break that enmeshed connection, but it is clear to me that what another kid might shrug off, mine holds firmly in his heart and his head.

So we have not once talked about Sandy Hook, for example. In my opinion, there would be no benefit to my son or to anyone else for him to know about something of that proportion that is not affecting his daily life. I don’t think he could sleep at night if he really knew.

But something bad could happen in our neighborhood that we could not ignore.

So I try to be matter-of-fact when things do come up: when he sees photos in the newspaper or hears about something on the news. “That is sad,” I agree, offering that we should keep those people in our thoughts and hope they feel better, or get what they need. I hope to get better about more family volunteer work and giving back.

I’ve tried to normalize death so that his first experience with it isn’t a direct one with a family member or friend. I have commented on other children’s grandparents dying and my grandparents dying. The other day we were discussing ages and when someone had died. He asked about his grandfather’s age and put it together that he might die soon. My husband (the son of this 80-year-old man) commented that his dad had been through a whole lot and was still going strong. I agreed but countered that yes, someday he would die. The tone I’m going for is some combination of matter-of-fact and compassionate.

My son’s sensitivity requires me, I think, to shield him from what I can but to prepare him for what I can’t. The first time he loses someone close to him, I know it will hurt, but I don’t want it to be a complete shock because we’ve never talked about death. So I bring it up whenever I see an opportunity that I think won’t burden him too much with someone else’s sadness.

And when that first close loss does happen, I will encourage him to cry and feel his feelings. But I will be at the ready with Rescue Remedy, and lavender oil, and aconite, and Emotional Freedom Technique, and maybe some craniosacral therapy or Reiki to ensure that whatever negative energy comes up can move through him and not burrow deeper into his body to keep hurting him.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn’t Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she’s explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she’s learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren’t so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she’s had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller’s Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter’s horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges–when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who’d want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn’t have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.


5 Responses to “Making the scary or different okay”

  1. I agree with your comment about not exposing a child to tragedies that he or she will find overwhelming and feel helpless about. Unfortunately, sometimes the world brings tragedy to our doorsteps and we have to do what we can to find a way through it. Glad you have a list of remedies in mind, in case of the worst!

  2. Isn’t it surprising the kinds of questons they can come up with? Kieran has also asked a few that have made me shake my head. But there is so much to wrap your brain around, and they are just trying to figure things out. Re: death – we just had our first experience, my husband’s grandfather passed away. We visited him while he was very ill, and we knew it was coming, so we did have time to prepare our 5yo. I was worried he would be scared at the funeral, but he was respectful and curious in an age-appropriate way.

  3. Living in Africa, death is more prevalent then in Europe. People’s reactions to it are also completely different here. Ever since she was small, talk of death has been a natural part of her life. I hope because of this, she will e better equipped the day someone close to her passes

  4. Your reminder to figure out what our kids are really thinking is so spot on. I sometimes blunder through a complicated explanation without realizing that Mikko’s question was actually much simpler than I imagined. And I like your idea of making death real before it hits close to home. I think I’ll adopt that technique of talking about my grandparents who are dead and other people we know of who have lost relatives, so that it won’t be such a shock.

  5. Discussing topics and *really* listening to our children is such a wonderful and informative thing. I think parents often become so busy with day to dya things that they don’t take the time to fully embrace the fact that our children are quite capable of thinking, understanding, and discussing even heavy subjects.


  1. Talking To Children About Death | Diary of a First Child - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  2. Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What's Worked for Me | - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  3. Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  4. How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? | Natural Parents Network - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  5. Preschool Peer Pressure | Adventures of Lactating Girl - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  6. Frank Talk « Rosmarinus Officinalis - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  7. » Difficult Questions and Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell the Truth Positive Parenting Connection - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  8. Embracing Individuality | Living Peacefully with Children - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica …
  9. Hybrid Rasta Mama: Real Talk - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  10. Preschool Peer Pressure | Adventures of Lactating Girl - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …
  11. Teaching 911 To Kids - Home Keeping Basics - [...] Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, …

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