[Europe] How to Have Difficult Conversations with Children

This content was suggested by: 
23 Mar 2020
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Being a child or working with them is always full of surprises. Thanks to their natural curiosity, they want to know everything and use questions to explore the world. A professional needs to be prepared to answer all of life's different questions, even on difficult topics.

In order to prepare:

  • PLAN sessions about difficult or upsetting topics.
  • BE OPEN to any questions/topics.
  • REFLECT back on discussions for improvement.

How to prepare for the conversation:

  • Decide:
    • What is the aim of the session? (awareness raising, understanding something)
    • What is the most appropriate group size for the topic? (large group, small group, one-to-one conversation)
    • What are the best ways to engage children within the discussion (activities like arts and crafts, drama, debate)?
    • How to introduce the topic? (reading articles, books, stories)
  • Make a lesson plan.
  • Always provide opportunities for questions.

During the conversation:

  • Always let them feel comfortable and safe. (Explain why it is important to talk about this subject)
  • Make them feel their opinion is valued.
  • Give them the time to process.
  • Always be as honest as possible. (Taking account of their age)
  • Do not give incorrect answers, it is okay not to know something.
  • Make sure to use age-appropriate language.
  • Help them the best you can, but do not hesitate to guide them to further support.
  • Be equipped to recognise signs that they might have experience with the topic.

Further support from Childline

If you’re discussing a sensitive topic or issue with children and young people, you must make sure they have access to additional support.

Make sure they know Childline can give them confidential advice and support. Calls to 0800 1111 are free. Children can also get support and advice via the Childline website.

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