When a kid starts going to school, for many, it's one of their first real forays out into the world without their parents being there to watch over them. When they're at school all day learning, they're likely learning a whole lot more than you maybe were expecting that are definitely not from a text book. There are a bunch of things kids hear at school before second grade, for instance, that you may or may not be ready to address with them. It's important, however, that they feel comfortable asking you questions and talking about new and perhaps confusing situations and concepts that they've simply never dealt with before.
Psychologist Dr. Erika Martinez of Envision Wellness says that it's important for parents to remain as "neutral" as possible when addressing difficult or uncomfortable topics with their little kids. While you might be internally freaking out, if your kid sees you doing so, they'll think that it's because what they're asking questions about isn't OK and will be scared to bring up the subject in the future. It's best to instead stay even-keel and talk through their questions as well as what you'd like them to say, believe, or learn from the experience.
"I really encourage parents to be proactive when it comes to having difficult conversations," Kelsey Torgerson, a childhood anxiety and anger management specialist in St. Louis, tells Romper by email. "You want your child to be able to talk with you and get their questions answered, before hearing 10 different versions of what happened and what it means from their peers." It might be tempting to shy away or brush the conversation off, but they're growing up and if you don't talk to them about it, someone else probably will.
1. Comments About Appearance
You might think you are, but you're probably not ready for the day your kid comes home upset over being told they're fat or ugly or that something about their appearance just isn't right. "I understand that if a child is saying certain things (making these kind of comments), it's because they have experienced an adult saying it around them (for example such as weight), or they have their own insecurities and therefore are making somebody else feel bad, when it's something that they really feel bad about themselves," as principal and author of The Gifted Storyteller Gregg Korrol tells Romper in an email exchange. "So I speak to my daughter about understanding where the other person is coming from and that it's not a comment about her, but it is a comment about the person who is speaking." That can be easier said than done, but it's important that you don't simply dismiss the child's comments as false, even though you think they are. Those comments can hurt whether or not they're true.
2. Comments About Santa, Etc.
If your child believes in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or somebody else, there will likely come a time when kids at school start whispering that those people or things aren't real. Depending on your personal stance on the subject of kids believing in these people and things, if your kid asks you directly about it, it might elicit a little bit of panic on your part. Martinez says that, again, it's important to stay calm, ask them questions, and have the conversation. Don't just let the moment pass.
3. Comments About Their Strengths And Weaknesses
While most of the comments that kids will hear by the time they get to second grade are things that you're going to have to address with them, when it comes to comments about their strengths and weaknesses at school (be it athletics, math and sciences, the arts, or something else), you might actually have to have a conversation with the teacher instead of your child.
Martinez says that research shows that opinions formed at this age about your natural ability (or lack thereof) can carry through over the course of the rest of your life. Basically, if you're told that you're not naturally great at math, you may believe that forever and it could carry over to similar subjects, such as physics, which requires you to incorporate math. Martinez says that it's important for teachers and parents to praise effort, not just natural ability.
4. Comments About Death And Dying
For some kids, by the time they're in second grade, they've experienced the death of a grandparent, parent, friend, pet, or someone else. Death and loss can be extremely difficult for kids to deal with and can also be hard for you to talk about with them. "When discussing something difficult, such as a recent loss or death experienced by a peer, stay factual," Torgerson says. "Let your child know what you know, without guessing about certain things. And take time to process your feelings, before bringing up the conversation with your child. It's absolutely alright to be sad, upset, or confused, but you want to be calm enough during the conversation to really be present with your child." Additionally, Martinez says that it can be helpful to tell (or reiterate) your kids what your family believes, but also talk to them and explain that other families might see things differently and that that's OK. Otherwise, if they're talking at school and they're disagreeing, it can be confusing as to why they don't all believe the same things.
5. Comments About Pregnancy And Sex
You may or may not be prepared to have these conversations, but questions about pregnancy, where babies come from, and conversations about kissing or marriage can all come home from school with your kid. If they do, Martinez, again, suggests that you remain calm. Don't freak out, don't clam up, stay nonchalant. Additionally, she recommends that whenever something like this comes up, you ask your kids questions to get more information about what they really want to know and why they want to know it. That way, you can address the questions they're asking in the right way, while also addressing any other issues that may arise during your chat.
6. Comments That Don't Match Your Family's Values Or Beliefs
Whether it's language you don't use at home, traditions that differ from one family or culture to another, or something else entirely, it's definitely possible that your kids will come home from school by second grade (at least once) having heard something that just doesn't really go along with what your family does or believes. It doesn't mean that what they've heard or learned is bad, by any means, but it can be difficult to know how to address it with your kids. "Try to be honest and validating. Kids may say something they heard and not know how people usually respond," psychologist Dr. Jessica Hunter tells Romper in an email exchange. "If you are able to provide feedback and response as well as ask their feelings about it, they you can also validate. This paves the way for more open communication with you and your child."
7. Comments About Current Events
If you kid is just now in second grade, there's likely a lot going on in the world that you're not sharing with them. That doesn't mean they won't still hear about it. Hunter says that teachers, peers, peers' siblings, parents of friends, and more can all say things in front of your kid that might lead to some questions. "If you know your child is going into school and will be more exposed to peers, consider how you might answer some of these difficult questions/language etc ahead of time," Hunter says. "You cannot prepare for everything but thinking ahead can help you feel you are ready to know how to handle anything." While you want to shield your kids from some of what is going on, knowing how you'll respond to questions if they have them can help you anticipate a conversation and address things in a way in which you're comfortable and your kids understand.
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