How to talk with children about sensitive issues
BY PAT HANSON, PH.D.
Two years ago I received a note from Mary who, a few years before that, had shared a personal story with my Invisible/Alienated Grandparent support group (www.aga-fl.org). She related how her spouse, Bob, had transitioned to a female and become Barbara. After that she had become estranged from her daughter and had little contact with her granddaughters.
The note read, “I spent a weekend with my daughter and younger granddaughter last month. Seems like things are back on track! Thanks for your help and support.”
Through the support group, Mary had discovered that mother-daughter issues were more common than she imagined. She realized she was not alone, and that even though her situation with transgender issues was unique, the pain of separation was quite common.
Over the years Mary offered rather profound quotes to other group members.
“If you don’t leave your past in your past … it will destroy your future.” “Live for what today has to offer, not what yesterday has stolen away.”
And, I learned a great deal as well, as I had been previously fairly unfamiliar with the concept of gender transitioning. Given our cultural conditioning we all need to diminish negative thoughts, hold the possibility for more acceptance, and look for the connection between all of us, based in love.
It occurred to me that a great lesson for our grandkids is this: “Differences of any kind are what make people interesting. We are all different from each other. We have to accept people for who they are and make sure everyone feels included. It is wrong to make people feel sad or left out simply because they are different than you in any way.”
While there is no one correct script for talking to your g-kids about transgender or other sensitive issues, here are some guidelines:
Keep it a dialog – Use teachable moments to connect with your grandchildren. Ask questions, such as: Where did you hear about that? Tell me about it.
Be honest “I don’t know” is OK. Relax. As a grandparent, you don’t have to be an expert on every issue. The real answer to any question could be, “I Don’t Know.” Tell your grandchild you’ll look for an answer if you don’t know.
Keep it simple. Answer questions as they are asked.
Address hateful or discriminatory statements. If your grandchild or his friend says something derogatory about any person based on a difference, tell them such language is hurtful and inappropriate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – DR. PAT HANSON
Pat Hanson is a seasoned health educator, public speaker, and workshop facilitator. She is the author of Invisible Grandparenting: Leave A Legacy Of Love Whether You Can Be There or Not. She lectures nationally on Aging Positively and is a columnist for the magazine: Crone: Women Coming of Age