Don’t Sugarcoat; Have Difficult Conversations With Your Children

The tragedy in Las Vegas last week, like similar American incidents over the past several years, poses a dilemma for parents across the country: do we “protect” our children from horrifying news like this, or do we discuss it openly, providing them with a better understanding of the world in which we live? When is the right time to have those difficult conversations with your children?

There’s a saying that, paraphrased, tells us, “that which is difficult is usually the right thing to do.” Sitting down with your kids and discussing events like the tragedy in Las Vegas is clearly the more difficult option, but it’s better for everyone. There are many lessons to be taught through this approach — not only the unfortunate knowledge that people are capable of evil actions, but that some in the crowd placed their lives on the line to protect their children, loved ones, friends, or even complete strangers.

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

One member of the crowd achieved 15 minutes of fame by openly (and obscenely) gesturing to the shooter, while bullets rained down on the crowd. While we might not want our kids to behave in such a reckless fashion in a situation like this, there is a teachable moment there — while we are capable of evil, we are also capable of incredible bravery in moments of intense stress. Yes, that particular moment of bravery was probably alcohol-fueled, but that is yet another teachable moment!

The reality of today’s world is that it presents new and different threats to us, anytime, any place. When we huddle as a family, we talk about these threats from time to time. It’s sad that these topics take up part of our family agenda, but we feel that’s it far better to present our children with the world as we believe it to be. These tragedies are opportunities to discuss our values and remind our children that our values and our behavior are tied together.

* This post was co-authored by Jim Marra, who added great perspective, editing, and support.


Like everything else in parenting, having difficult conversations with your children isn’t easy. If you’d like a little help, check out our bookpocket guideblog, and downloadable parenting resources.

Author: Dale W. Vernon
Dale, a business and investment advisor and professed imperfect father of three children, is co-author of How Imperfect Parents Lead Great Families. He is a frequent speaker about the importance of establishing family values, creating a culture of communication in your home and being an intentional parent that understands the importance of being the best example you can for your children.
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