How to talk to children about difficult subjects

How to talk to children

*This is a guest post

Many moons ago I was touring the world as a session drummer, I absolutely loved this line of work but my life changed after attending an event in London which told the story of a young girl trafficked from Moldova. Learning about the devastating effect of human trafficking blew me away. It was the catalyst for me to try and make some real change in the world.

To draw attention to the issue, I undertook two large stunts – one where I lived in a shipping container without human contact and another where I drummed without sleep for four and half days. Following the stunts, a local school asked me to speak to their pupils; I was surprised with how engaged the children were with such a complex topic like human trafficking. It inspired me to start Just Enough.

Helping young people to cope

We support schools to help young people cope with the around them and empower future generations to do things differently. Just Enough workshops tackle real world issues like Modern Slavery, Hate Crime, County Lines, Radicalisation and Knife Crime. The aim for all we do at Just Enough is to inspire a generation into believing the world doesn’t have to be this way – everyone has it in them to be tolerant and open.

To date, we’ve hosted 1,122 workshops and reached over 33,600 children. We’ve developed a range of tools and techniques to effectively engage children, as young as four years old, with some of the biggest problems facing our society. So how can you tackle some of these big, complex issues with young children?

talk to children

Be aware of the issues

Depending on where you live, some issues may feel more real to you than others. Certain areas around the country might have a high rate of knife crime, others struggle with modern slavery. You might think these issues only apply to older children but if we give children the tools to tackle them when they are younger they are able to be more resilient when they are older or are faced with them.

Someone could target your child even if you live in a nice, quiet village. There are criminal gangs that are so effective at what they do and now they even farm children in rural areas – which we’ve seen in the rapid growth of County Lines gangs.

Turning your back on these issues and saying ‘it doesn’t happen here’ is the first mistake in keeping your children safe, because it could happen anywhere and to anyone. If we inform them when they’re young – educating them on how to identify the signs of these issues, how to avoid getting involved with criminals and what to do if you see a victim – hopefully the next generation can focus on flying cars – not on overcoming these repetitive problems of prejudice, inequality and fear.

Be the first to bring it up

The way the internet allows children to consume content means that they will be exposed to issues that can be confusing and complicated. They will be aware of new stories about young people losing their lives to gang violence, or being used to handle drugs for organised criminals as well as terrorist incidents and violent attacks when they unfortunately occur.

These issues – even if not geographically close to them – will be chatted about in the playground, shown on social media and become more visible as they go and explore the world.

There is a part of me that thinks children should always be allowed to be children, but from my experience with the workshops a child’s imagination will do far worse than anything we tell them.

Arm them with knowledge

It’s important we arm them with the knowledge of how to identify these issues so they can stay safe and even protect others, by knowing about the right places to go for professional help and advice if they see someone in need.

With the wealth of disinformation, or ‘fake news’ circulating online it is better that you proactively give them the information about the challenging topics and the tools with which to handle it.

talk to children

Be honest

As a parent if you’re talking about these sorts of things you need to speak from the heart. When my son is older (he’s a toddler now), the best thing I can do is be honest with him. I delivered a school workshop in the city the day after the Manchester Arena attack. I knew I had to be honest with the children, without scaring them.

We explained how the attacker had been radicalised and that he thought that by doing this evil thing it was a good thing but he ended up killing and hurting lots of people. Sometimes saying words to that effect are all you need to do, but if your child asks ‘could that happen to me?’ the answer of course is ‘you don’t have to be worried because it happens very, very rarely. The police, the government and me as your parent – we’re all here to keep you as safe as possible’.

If you lie and just say ‘this will never happen to you’ then the children don’t believe you because they hear about it so much in the news, online and from their school mates. As much as we may try to protect our children from hearing about such events the reality is, with a 24 hour news cycle and social media, they are likely to hear about it.

Recognising reality

It is better if you take the lead on an honest conversation with them that recognises the reality of such tragic world events but also offer reassurance.  If we’re honest and say it does happen very, very occasionally but there are things you can do to help protect yourself, then they feel reassured

In the first award of its kind, Just Enough is gifting a £1,000 cash prize to a child who has done something extraordinary in their community. From caring for a sick loved one to charity fundraising or standing up for what they believe in – we want to reward inspiring children whose amazing acts are helping to support their community.

Do you know an inspiring child, aged 4-12 years old, who goes the extra mile to put a smile on the faces of others? If so, you can suggest their head teacher nominates them for the inaugural Just Enough Children Award 2019. The deadline is Thursday 28 February. Visit:

How to talk to your children about difficult subjects #parenting #parents #parentingtips

Author bio

Phil Knight founded Just Enough after hearing the story of a young girl trafficked from Moldova – he wanted to go into schools and talk to children about slavery and how they could help stop it. A former session drummer, Phil toured the world, now he’s committed to educating children about human trafficking and other key issues such as knife crime and county lines through his work with Just Enough.

Picture credit: People photo created by freepik –


  1. This is really interesting and heartbreaking at the same time – it’s so sad we even have to talk about some of these things with our children, but doing it sensitively and responsibly is very important!

  2. I’m a firm believer of being honest with our kids, even while they are young. Our 5 year old has recently started asking about death and I’m trying to be totally honest with him but tactful at the same time. It’s hard as all we want to do is protect them but at the same time I’d rather not lie to him. Very interesting read.

  3. Like you, Phil, we have a toddler. So whilst we don’t have to explain these sorts of things yet, it’s scary to think we will need to soon enough. What a cruel world it can be. Thank you for the advice and keep up the good work.

  4. So interesting but the reality can be a little harsh sometimes 🙁 It is important that we speak openly about such things otherwise people become embarrassed to be open about them. It paves the way better for when they are older too and having to deal with such issues in an adult world

  5. I try and be honest with the kids at all times and not shield them from the truth. It’s not easy though, there is so much upsetting stuff in the news

  6. This sounds like a very rewarding project. We are honest with our 6 year old about things that happen and although I would prefer not to. I agree that educating early can help protect them and others. Sounds like a great foundation with a very important message.

  7. That is very scary to think about but it happens over here too in the States. No one wants to talk about it though. It hardly even makes the news. It’s one of those things pushed under the rug but it really should be addressed. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  8. Really interesting reading. We have always tried to be quite open with our kids and chat about things they hear. It makes such a difference if you don’t make a big deal about things, the kids can talk openly with you then

  9. I totally agree about being honest with our kids. But, as you say it’s all about getting the balance right. You need to make sure they’re aware of the dangers without scaring them.

  10. I really love how everyone here is so pro being honest with their kids – I think it is important, although the truth can be very uncomfortable sometimes x

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