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How to have real conversations with your preschooler about tough issues.

Disclaimer: This post tackles some heavy subjects that you may or may not agree with politically, religiously, or socially. The purpose is not to pass judgment, but to simply open up the channels of communication with your child to spur a rational discussion. This post is sponsored by #GoodToKnow, but the opinions are all my own.

Doesn’t it feel like the children of today have more “worries” than we ever did as a child? In hindsight, I fully remember walking to the 7-11 near my house as a small child to purchase treats. I remember finally being deemed “old enough” to responsibly cross the busy street outside my neighborhood solo. I remember giggling with neighborhood friends over the sketchy bum that (literally) lived inside a giant tree in the abandoned lot next to said 7-11. I remember solo play, away from the watchful eyes of my parents. Some may say that it was a different world back then (and I agree that, in some respects, it was!) and that “bad” things didn’t happen as often as they do now. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. All I know is that I wouldn’t have traded the experience of independent play for anything in the world. It was what I needed, and my mom was smart enough to recognize that and raise me to have these experiences safely.
As much as I try to be the mother that my mom was (is), I often times find myself having to have different discussions with Vivien than what I got at her age. I mean, let’s be serious, I fully remember my dad bringing our first TV that worked with a legit remote control (rather than the dial knob) into the house – yet my 4-year-old can unlock my smart phone and Kindle, pull up the Netflix app, log in to her own individualized profile, and select what show she would like to watch - all by herself. This past weekend, she told me to “post my selfie to facebook for all my friends to see.”


As much as we may fight it (or embrace it!) it really is a different world. 


The other day, we were running an errand as a family and we had to make a pit-stop to grab some cash at the Rite-Aid near my house. As you may know, we live in Colorado, where retail marijuana was legalized back in 2012 and retail sales began in January of 2014. Now don’t stop reading, because I promise you, this post won’t suddenly take a political turn for the worse. Directly next to the Rite-Aid, a brand new cannabis store is under construction, and I turned and made a comment to Eli about the progress of the “pot shop” and how quickly it was coming to fruition.
Later that night, it got me thinking about how to broach the subject of responsible retail marijuana use with my child in the future. While neither my husband nor I personally partake in marijuana, it is very likely that my kids will be faced with it sometime in the future, in some aspect. I know that Eli and I both enjoy alcoholic drinks (extremely responsibly) either with dinner, or socially, while sometimes in the presence of the kids, and retail marijuana could potentially become as widespread and common as it is to see Daddy holding a beer at a Super Bowl party.
Just think: no generation since the prohibition days have been privy to witness a substance go from being illegal, to legal. That’s mind boggling to me, and comes hand in hand with so many additional responsibilities or “talking points” to teach children how to be responsible, even at a young age. I want to be prepared to talk to my child about anything, and I know that the day is very near when she asks me what store is next to Rite-Aid. You see, she’s obsessed with recognizing logos. Homegirl can proudly spot a Chick-Fil-A from miles away. She begs me to stop the car at every single Target bullseye we pass (and let’s be honest here, I usually oblige with that one.) She knows we go grocery shopping at Sprouts, and that she gets new (ridiculous looking) cat leggings at H&M.


So that night, I went home and mentally made a list of talking points of how I’d like to broach the subject once it comes up. (I also have a mental list on “where babies come from” along with a slew of other topics.)

1. Share relevant facts and discuss how it relates to them:

  • Right now, the retail sale of recreational marijuana is legal in only four states: Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. While laws about consumption may vary from state to state, both states recognize it as a substance that is reserved for those 21 years of age and over, and it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, or partake in it under the age of 21. Now how do I broach that point to my child? Simply discussing that it’s an “adult” substance will suffice if you’re having a talk with a smaller child. The older the child gets, the more this point can be embellished upon. You can even use it as a teachable moment on discussing democracy, and voting, and how something once illegal became legal based on that state’s majority vote.

2. Avoid using blanket terms:

  • Kids are very literal. Avoid using blanket terms such as “bad” or anything else that they may construe differently than what you intended. Communicate with your child what the shop on the corner sells, just as easily as you’d do if they asked you what the liquor store down the street sells. (Did you know that in Colorado, you have to actually buy alcohol from the liquor store? Coming from California where you could find anything you want at your local drugstore, it was a weird adjustment for me.)

3. Keep the communication line open for the future, and evolve your discussion as they age:

  • If you flippantly tell your small child that “pot is bad” and change the subject quickly, they may not feel comfortable asking you questions about the subject in the future. Strive to have an open conversation about it, that leaves them comfortable to approach you with more questions in the future.

While I realize that opinions about the subject mentioned here may differ, the fact of the matter is simple: retail marijuana is a legal substance in the state in which we currently reside, and being prepared to handle this topic calmly and respectfully is important.

One of the best ways to keeps kids from using retail marijuana is for parents to educate themselves enough to have a factual, yet open and honest conversation with their children. GoodToKnowColorado.com/Talk is full of useful information for adults to do just that, such as tips and tools to start talking to kids about marijuana so they can make healthy choices themselves. With holiday break right around the corner, it’s a great time to have an open and honest conversation.

The points I mentioned above can/should ideally be used for any topic that your child may question, whether it be religion, or sex or drugs. Am I alone in wanting to be prepared for how to handle these topics as they arise?

 

If you’ve had a similar discussion with your child, I’d love to hear any tips or tricks; or please tell me in the comment section if you’d change or add anything to my mental (now technically, written) list above.


13 comments to How to have real conversations with your preschooler about tough issues.

  • Now that D is in Kindergarten, he’s started asking more questions. I completely agree, we need to be prepared for open honest conversation on topics that might make us uncomfortable. When Dylan asks me a question that makes me uncomfortable, if I can think of a simple response that will help him understand without giving him too much information he doesn’t necessarily need yet, I do that. Otherwise, if he keeps asking questions, I’ll usually say, let’s do some research when we get home. He, honestly, usually forgets when we get home. I’m excited to take a look at this website and get some ideas for the day when he doesn’t forget, though :)

    I’d also like to figure out how to answer the preschool question many will experience, in one form or another, eventually: “How did baby sister get in your tummy?” My quick response to my 3 year old the other day was, “It’s complicated. Let’s talk about that later.”
    Erika recently posted…Reclaiming Something LostMy Profile

  • Sarah

    Great post, Megan! We actually had a conversation with J (age 4.5) about pot recently — it was on the Ohio ballet and we all went and voted. My husband and I both voted for the legalization — it was basically half of the ballot. J wanted to know why we were voting, and what for, so we kind of explained about the voting process and why we were voting the way we were. Granted, I did use vague terms “I think it’s okay; people should be able to make their own choices” and didn’t get into all the nuances of the issue. But, I think you can kind of work toward that — a 4.5 year old won’t understand as much as an 8 year old, 12 year old, etc. I think you should be honest, but also age appropriate!

    • Megan B.B.

      I totally agree that it should be age appropriate, for sure! That’s awesome that you had such an in-depth conversation with J about voting. Believe it or not, kids remember that stuff. One of my first memories of my dad was listening to him talk about politics and who he was voting for.

  • Heather

    LOVE this post. We’ve been getting questions on tough subjects lately too, and I never know how to handle them. I especially like the tip to not just say, “x is bad,” as it may potentially discourage questions in the future – normally I would say that but now I’ll think twice!

  • Danielle

    I love this post. I consider myself extremely open-minded, and fully believe that we need to embrace the changes in our society and not fear them. I also believe that we need to find a way to make our children comfortable embracing “their” world and accept the fact that it is no longer ours. That being said, I found myself in the perfect situation to practice just that the other day, and I failed miserably. I was flipping though channels with my son G (4) and we happened upon a scene from Keeping Up With The Kardashians with Caitlin Jenner. G instantly recognized her deep voice, and asked me, “Why does that man have girl hair?” It was a simple, honest and curious question. It was an ideal moment to practice what I preach – to educate and enlighten my son on a change our society is in the midst of embarking on. But I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless. I brushed it off, changed the channel, and it was soon forgotten – by him. But I think about it often, and I still don’t know how I should have answered that question.

    • Megan B.B.

      Danielle,
      I love your comment; you have such a way with words! I especially love, “we need to find a way to make our children comfortable embracing “their” world and accept the fact that it is no longer ours.” Totally agree!
      Vivien also was having a hard time understanding Caitlin Jenner. She kept saying, “that’s a boy!” and I kept saying “No Vivien, it’s a girl, honey!” and then we had a messy conversation about it, that really wasn’t thought out, but I think was age appropriate. I roughly kind of told her like, “Sometimes people are born one way, and they change, and that’s okay.” Totally messy, and I could have handled it way better. But that’s how I feel about motherhood in general, most of the time. ;-) xxooxo

  • I haven’t discussed it with my kids yet. My oldest is six, so it hasn’t really come up. We don’t have close friends or family who make those lifestyle choices. But, I see it as a similar conversation to not using cigarettes or alcohol. I’d advise not making those choices and definitely not until they reach a legal age.
    Krystal Miller (@hhtfamilyblog) recently posted…Toilet Paper Tube Christmas Tree Craft and #GIFtaTree ProgramMy Profile

    • Megan B.B.

      Krystal,
      Wow, you’re lucky that it hasn’t come up- my daughter is 4 and is big about store logos, so she always spots the green plant on stores. I agree about passing along the legal age limit- and the website I linked has awesome resources!

  • I just wrote a post about Retail Marijuana and how to teach your kids about! The GOOD TO KNOW Website is a great resource! :) http://organicdealdiva.com/good-to-know-facts-about-marijuana-in-colorado/
    Great article!

  • Kristen

    This was so good to read because I think it applies to lots of issues. On a recent drive to Florida, we saw a lot of signs for strip clubs and sex shops. I wondered at what age our son will ask about those signs. It is a fine line between explaining what something is and how we feel about it within our values and making something shameful, and making him afraid to talk to us about stuff like you mentioned, Megan.

    • Megan B.B.

      I agree. I think you can let them know that it’s not something that you personally agree with, without coming off as judgmental and shameful.