Teaching Your Kids About Life’s Toughest Topics

teaching your kids

Any responsible adult will know how to handle difficult situations or complications in their lives such as debt, criminal charges, death of a loved one, personal injury, losing a job, and more. But even if you have received a good debt education somehow, it will soon be time to give your children a debt education too, and they can use this knowledge to grow up into financially responsible adults. Today, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit card debt altogether, and there are right and wrong ways to have credit card debt or auto loan debt. In particular, today’s young adults face a lot of debt. Around 81.5% of Millennials, or anyone born from 1982-1995, have debt in some shape or form, typically student loan debts an auto loan debts.

When it comes to life’s hard topics, it is a good idea to give your children a solid debt education, and teach them about mortality and crime, too. But it is a good idea to stagger out these topics, and not scare them with one big session about all of life’s potential hardships. One at a time is best, and a debt education may be the best place to start.

A Proper Debt Education

A good debt education for your children may begin by you clearing up some misconceptions or myths about debt and the role that it plays in a person’s life. Debt and failure (in a broad sense) have a lot of negative connotations, and those very words scare a lot of people. But debt, like failure, can be done either the right way, or the wrong way, and is not guaranteed to lead to disaster. When a person takes out loans for the right reasons, they can finance an important purchase that moves their life forward, and they can build up credit by paying it back responsibly. Taking out too many loans, or neglecting to pay them back, is what can cause trouble. Loans are tools, not gifts, and they should be treated accordingly.

All kinds of arenas in life can lead to outstanding fees and debts, from divorce law and going to court to buying a house or a car or going to college. When you give your children a debt education, emphasize the idea that debts should be taken out to accomplish something productive, and that debts should only be taken out when there is a plan for repaying them consistently. In short, only take out a debt for a good reason, and when you have the steady income necessary for paying it back. Otherwise, a person may end up deep in debt with little to no income or savings, and they get a new loan to pay off the old one. This creates a debt cycle that can get out of control, and the debtor may end up getting shady loans from unfair and disreputable sources after a point. A good debt education can help your children from ending up in that grim situation.

A good debt education also mentions the importance of credit. Having a good credit score is quite important since a person can only get good loans at favorable interest rates when their credit score is high. Someone with a bad credit score may end up with high-interest rates, or get rejected for loans altogether. But taking out smaller loans and paying them back regularly allows a person to build up their credit score, such as credit cards with low spending caps on them, or an auto loan for a fairly inexpensive used car. With a good debt education, your children will know when and why to take out small loans and pay them back, so they will have a good credit score for bigger loans, such as a mortgage or a business loan later in life.

Finally, a good debt education includes a description of personal financial management. A good credit score is a serious asset, but any borrower should also keep careful track of their finances, so they know how much money they can set aside each month (or week) toward repaying a debt. Anyone savvy at this can predict the time frame for repaying debt, and keeping a spending log can help make this possible. If a person is spending a lot of money on frivolous expenses such as fast food or luxury goods, that will slow down their debt repayment. Some people make a lot of money but still struggle to repay debts simply because they are spending too much, and an otherwise easily repayable debt becomes a serious financial challenge. Make sure your children always have a plan and the right calculations for repaying any debt on time, big or small.

Mortality

This is not a fun topic for anyone; no one looks forward to their own death, nor the deaths of their friends and family. Children often hear “death,” and “died,” and “passed on,” but small children do not always fully grasp when all this may mean. When the time is right, you can explain the hard truths to your children in a gentle and compassionate manner, and explain that at some point, everyone’s life comes to an end. Children often take things for granted, since their life experience is very short (thus far) and they haven’t lived long enough to see major changes happen, such as someone growing older and passing one day. You most likely have, and you can ease your children into knowing all about it.

Children might assume that things will always stay the same, such as their grandparents or great-grandparents being around forever, but the time will come when those people are gone. If your children are taught that this is natural and normal, this can ease the grief somewhat, if they realize that their beloved grandparents’ death wasn’t an unfair anomaly. This can also help your children compose themselves during a funeral program or wake; some people are known to have outbursts during cremation arrangements or funerals, and cry out about the deceased’s “unfair” passing. But everyone faces their death eventually, and there is nothing unfair or strange about an elderly relative taking their turn. Of course, grief is to be expected, but if your children understand the basics, this can help prevent emotional scarring and prevent them from having outbursts during funeral arrangements or events. A balanced perspective is best, and your children can also be taught to be respectful and gracious during funeral services (mostly in terms of how they treat other people who are there and what kinds of things they say or ask).

Mental Disabilities

This is a matter of science; many children are born with mental conditions ranging from Down Syndrome to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and your own children can be taught all about the variety of mental disabilities/differences out there. At the very least, your children ought to know that such conditions exist, and Down Syndrome awareness and autism awareness can do a lot of good. If your child knows nothing about it, then they may end up mistreating or bullying a peer who has a mental disability or at least fail to understand that person and adjust to their special needs. It is a good idea to let your children know that some other children (and adults) think and act differently from them and that these people shouldn’t be feared, mocked, or bullied.

This can make your children more compassionate to classmates, neighbors, and friends who have mental disabilities, and allow everyone to get along better. After all, many children (and even adults) with mental disabilities tend to suffer from social ostracizing, limited educational or employment opportunities, and self-esteem issues, among others. But your children, if they understand, can extend a hand of friendship to those individuals, or at least refrain from saying or doing anything that can make the situation worse. Be aware that many autistic individuals have sensory issues, such as for light or sound touching, and it is best that your children know better than to make those issue worse somehow (such as touching an ASD child who doesn’t like physical contact).

Adoption

Many households choose to adopt a child, such as if one or both partners is infertile or for any other reason. Children who are adopted at a very young age are often unaware that the adults in the household are not their biological parents, and eventually, as older children, they might start to realize that something is “off,” and want answers. Even if they do not, you may end up in a position to explain the adoption process to them, and ease them into the fact that you are their caretaker and guardian, but not their biological parent. If your children are not adopted, but they know other children who are, you may teach your children that adoption is nothing unusual or wrong and that adopted children should not be made fun of due to their adopted status. Some adopted children are mocked for it, but you can make sure that your own children, at least, are not tormenting those adopted children. You might also explain, in child-friendly terms, why some parents give up their children or babies (since your children are likely to ask about that).

Drug Use

Children, in general, do not abuse drugs until their adolescence or older, but they may know other children in school whose parents or older siblings do abuse drugs, and your children may get a false impression about it. Often, drug users justify their habits anyway they can, and some even glamorize drug and alcohol abuse. Don’t let your children be swayed into thinking that drugs are cool or harmless; in fact, many children and adolescents face peer pressure to experiment with them, in order to win the approval of others. Make sure your children know that drugs to a lot more harm than good and that anyone who applies peer pressure this way is not worth trying to impress anyway. A real friend will not do this to your children, and real friendships are not based on drugs. If a family member is abusing drugs, meanwhile, you can explain the addiction help process to your children, and potentially involve them in an intervention if it’s appropriate.

Self Defense

All human beings, regardless of age, sex, race, level of income, or intelligence, have a basic right to protect their own well-being from physical or sexual abuse of any kind, from any party. Teaching your children self defense starts with the correct mentality and outlook: that no person, adult or child, has the right to harm them in any capacity, for any reason. Some children, unfortunately, are convinced by sexual abusers that the abuse is “natural” or a sign of love, but that is a trick, and it is vital that your children recognize and resist attempts at sexual or physical abuse from anyone.

Self defense’s physical aspect means teaching your children how and when to use force to resist bullying, kidnapping attempts, or the like. Bullying is common at schools, clubs, and camps, and your child never deserves to be bullied. Teach your young one how to recognize bullying and how to stand up for themselves. After all, bullies aren’t looking for a fair fight or a fun challenge; they want a helpless victim whom they can torment at any time. If your child can defend themselves both verbally and physically, they can make themselves an unappealing target for bullying, and bullies tend to back down after facing resistance. Of course, that is just a broad idea; this topic is quite nuanced, and physical resistance isn’t always necessary or a good idea. Be sure to use discretion when teaching your child about self defense, so they don’t cause another child serious injury by accident.

Teeth

Tooth-eating bacteria don’t have any mercy; they will chew through a child’s tooth enamel and cause cavities or tooth loss in a child just like they would in an adult. In fact, a significant percentage of children have already experienced tooth disease or cavities by the time they start elementary school, typically through failing to brush their teeth. Children might also suffer chipped or lost teeth due to accidents. So, make sure your children understand the importance of brushing their teeth regularly, and they can have a mouth of healthy and strong teeth for years to come. Use songs or other routines to make tooth brushing more fun and interesting for your children.

Bail and Crime

Make sure your children know that there are serious consequences to crime, even if they are under 18 years old. The last thing you want is to end up paying cash bail or getting a bail bond agent when your college-aged child commits a crime. Crime never pays, as they say, and your child must know that they will only create new hardships for themselves and their family if they start committing crimes, violent or not.

If your children understand the nature and consequences of crime, debt, bullying, drug use, and more, they can grow up with a strong sense of responsibility, and become highly functional adults with good habits and a balanced perspective on the world around them.

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