Talking to Kids During Tough Times

This is a guest by post by Amy Kite, the author of “Divorce: What About Me?” and “Cancer, Cancer Go Away!” To learn more about Amy or her children’s books on tough topics, please visit her website:

Photo courtesy of swambo

Photo courtesy of swambo

Even as adults, many people simply don’t like talking about death. It’s scary; it’s a concept that is hard to grasp; and, it’s just not fun to delve into that dark abyss. The same is true for many other tough topics such as divorce and illness.

So, if we adults struggle with these concepts, imagine how confusing they are to little kids. Children hear the word cancer, for example, and their minds may be immediately filled with so much sadness and confusion. That is why it is so critical to talk, talk again and then talk some more with your kids. We all want to know that we’re not alone with our fears. We all want to hear that others have shared our experiences. We all want to feel connected and reassured that all will be alright.

I have three children, and when I got separated several years ago, I immediately saw the wheels spinning my young kids’ minds: “What does this mean? Where are we going to live? Is it our fault?” It was at that time that I decided to write a book for kids to help alleviate their fears. My goal was to comfort kids, make them realize they were not alone and to remind them that they are loved. In addition, I had another goal: I wanted to spark conversations between young kids and their parents. Listening to my friends, I knew that many parents didn’t know how to broach the tough topics with their kids. They just preferred to avoid the tough topics because they themselves were full of too much pain or anger or sadness. I hoped that my book would serve as a tool to ignite conversation and to remind parents that their kids need to be comforted during difficult transitions.

One doesn’t have to be a therapist or expert to talk to kids about tough topics. He/she just has to be a good listener with a sympathetic ear. Try to imagine what you would feel as a young child learning about divorce or someone dying. Be patient and reassuring, and remember that no question is a dumb question. You want to encourage your kids to speak freely and openly in a safe environment. If they ask you a question that stumps you, be honest with them. Tell them that is a great question, so great that you need to spend some time thinking about it before answering. Let them see that you are vulnerable, too. We all get scared. And, we all struggle with wrapping our heads around the unknown.

When a sweet eight-year-old boy in our community got diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, a lot of kids had questions. Of course, we can’t answer all of the questions. We don’t know why that little boy got cancer. We did not know if he would make it. We could not guarantee this would not happen to someone else we love. It sure can make you feel helpless.

But, there is something you can do besides just being a good listener and encouraging your kids to talk: You can remind your kids to live in the moment. Encourage them to live their life without worry and fear. Remind them that all we really have is RIGHT NOW. This moment. Try to smile in this moment, love in this moment, breathe in this moment and be there for another in this moment.

This is what we have: today. Yes, life is unfair and painful and scary. But, we have each other. We have right now. We have our conversations. We have our connections. Hold on tightly. Make the most of each moment. And, keep talking, listening and encouraging kids to do the same.


By Amy Lee Kite (@amyleekite)
Photo Credit: swambo via Compfight cc

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