Talking to Girls About Sensitive Issues
It happens to all of us. Your girl is happily chatting away about her day and then she mentions one of those topics that derails the entire conversation. A sensitive issue has come up, and no matter what it is (bullies at school, heated political debates, or violence they saw on the news recently), your simple conversation has now taken a difficult turn.
So what do you do? While we don’t have all the answers, we’ve got some great recommendations from knowledgeable sources to help you out.
When She Asks About Violence In the News
With all of the screens and media around us daily, it’s almost impossible to keep girls from hearing about violence in our world. In a post from Girl Scouts of the USA called Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Extreme Violence, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist, says
little kids don’t have the context to understand what’s going on, so they will often fill in the blanks with the most frightening and worst possible scenarios. That’s why it’s so important that parents don’t dismiss their children’s worries by saying, ‘Don’t worry about that,’ or ‘Oh, that’s nothing.’ We need to have honest, direct conversations with all our children—even the very young ones—about the event that’s scared them, why it happened, and how you work to keep them safe.
Andrea Bastiani gives 7 tips for how to have these conversations, and we highly recommend bookmarking the post and following its advice when your girl has questions about violence in the media.
And don’t forget to share stories of caring even in the midst of violence, as this great advice from Mr.Rogers reminds us,
when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
When She Encounters Meanness
We all want to live in a world where everyone respects and helps others, where empathy is common, and people with opposing opinions cordially agree to disagree. But sadly, that’s not the world our girls are growing up in now.
So how do we help our girls when they encounter people who say mean things, treat them unfairly, or even bully them? Girl Scouts of the USA has some great resources to help your girl (and you!) navigate those difficult conversations and situations. They’ll help you support her as she learns to Shut Down Haters With Confidence, discovers What Can We Do About Bullying, and figures out how to deal with Sexist Language.
When Her Values Differ
As your girl grows, she’s bound to notice that not everyone she meets (strangers, friends, even family members) have the same values, beliefs, and personal experiences that she has. And she’s going to want to know what to do when she differs from her peers (or others she meets) in big (or even little) ways.
Girl Scouts of the USA has a great post with tips on how teach youth “about appreciating and valuing other humans—especially those who might, at first glance, seem quite different from themselves.” It’s called Why Tolerance Isn’t Working.
You can also check out the advice of Seattle Children’s Hospital on Respecting Differences. While it focuses on how to talk about disabilities specifically, it emphasizes that we are all different in some way and they remind us that “treating others as you would like to be treated is still great advice” for our girls.
What do you think of our recommendations? We hope they help you as you navigate some of those difficult conversations with your girls!