Talking to our little ones about family can be difficult, especially if your family setup has recently changed and you’re still trying to process it too. But try to remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out either - the most important thing is that your child knows you’re there for them. So, although talking about family should be an ongoing conversation, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Be patient
Meaningful relationships take time. You wouldn’t expect to bond with someone instantly, so give your child the same time. They might have gone from oldest sibling to youngest or old house to new - these are huge changes. So let your child know that it’s okay to be sad, and sit with them while they’re sad.
2. Make space
Create one-to-one time for just you and your child to talk about family. This doesn’t mean sit them down for a formal discussion. When you’re in the car, when you’re on a walk, and when you see a different type of family in the park are all perfect opportunities. Be there for them, little and often.
3. Ask questions
What does family mean to you? What do you like about our family and what are you not so sure about? Make sure your child knows you’ve heard them by paraphrasing their answers back to them. If your child is a bit small to talk like this, sow the seeds by drawing families and playing families with toys.
4. Remember that language matters
It is normal for children to feel out of control and angry about blended family. It is pretty confusing, right? So allow them to take ownership: do they want the new members of their family to be called step family, half family, just family or nothing at all for now? Taking the time to learn which words make your child feel comfortable is crucial for building trust and respect.
Talking about family is complicated and difficult even as an adult, so take your time and be kind to yourself. Because, in the end, happy mum really does mean happy baby.