Preparing for challenging conversations with your children

By Deborah Somerset, Safeguarding and Wellbeing Expert.

Parenting can be an amazing experience, but not without its challenges. One of these challenges will be that you have to have difficult or sensitive conversations with your child. Some of these may be around life events, such as bereavements, whilst others could be due to poor decision making. Many parents or carers may feel totally unprepared for just such a conversation, here are some suggestions that may make this situation less anxiety inducing! 

Many of the following suggestions are the things that can be embedded before a tricky conversation has to take place, therefore taking some of the pressure off all of those involved.


1. Know what works  

To begin with, be aware of what your child’s unique conversational style is. For example, are they better in the morning, or better after school? Do they like lots of back and forth, or do they prefer a slower environment to express themselves? 

2. Safe spaces to talk 

Some of the best and most revealing conversations are when we are engaging in everyday activities with our children, e.g., walking, driving somewhere, bath time, bedtime. Use these closer times listen to your child and learn about who they are as an individual. Start to introduce this regular opportunity to talk as part of a weekly routine. 

3. Allow your children to see you as a real person 

That includes showing appropriate emotions and talking about your emotions. For example, you might talk about a bad day you have had at work, or that you’re dealing with a difficult situation with one of your close friends. Also, let your child see your sense of humour and that adults can be silly, too! 

4. Be present 

It’s important that your child is supported with your full attention, really listening to your child will help them feel reassured that you are there for them. Then, when a really testing time or situation presents itself, those foundations are there. 

5. Mindful questions

Try and ask specific questions, e.g., “what was the best thing you did today” “how was football/netball/dance?” “who was there at lunchtime?” The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. Children who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness.

6. Ask for advice from your child  

Ask your child for their ideas about how to handle a situation. The GROW model is a tool used in coaching. We talk about what the GOAL is. What our OPTIONS are. What is the current REALITY and then WHAT are we going to do? When watching TV, asking your child how THEY would respond to a situation will give you some ideas of how they see things and may lead into useful and open unplanned, conversations 

7. Be mindful of body language  

Your body language and tone of voice are incredibly important. Being comfortable responding to anger, sadness, fear and embarrassment are crucial and will reassure your child that you can be counted on. 

8. Seeking support

Are there other people that could also offer support to both you and your child, when a difficult situation arises? Make sure you have talked this through with your child, as they may feel exposed, if lots of people know there has been a problem. 

We hope that you find the advice helpful. Remember, if a conversation does not go well, try not to see this as the end of all the positive time and effort you have already invested.

Deborah Somerset




Parent Advice Line

Guidance and support for parents and carers 

Find out more

Advice for young people

Where to get help, how to respond to bullies, frenemies, sexting and cyberbullying.

Find out more

Subscribe to updates for parents, carers and education professionals, direct to your inbox.

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. By using this site you agree to these cookies being set. See our cookies policy for more information or to change your cookie preferences at any time.

OK, hide this message
Back to the Top