Inside: Dr. Robyn Silverman, known as the “Conversation Doc,” shares her top tips and insights for having tough conversations with kids. She offers brilliant strategies to ensure our children feel seen and heard in every conversation, no matter how tricky.
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How would you feel if your child regularly came home in tears, constantly dealing with the same struggles with the same kids?
As parents, our immediate reaction is to jump in, protect, and maybe even try to “fix” the problem.
But is that really the best approach?
Picture this: A fifth-grade girl faces bullying every single day. Her mother, deeply aware of the anguish, feels at a loss. Even the teachers, who know what’s going on, can’t seem to find the right answer.
This girl feels trapped. (After all, she can’t avoid school.) She’s caught in a toxic triangle with two other girls: one her so-called ‘best friend,’ and the other a competitive rival. And it’s all on display for her classmates to see.
For her, it’s an ongoing nightmare.
Her mother, heartbroken, is struggling to find the right words of comfort at home.
In school, teachers’ efforts often backfire. They send her to the library, isolate her, and then discuss the issue with the class in her absence.
Picture how horrible it is to walk back into a room full of judging eyes, waiting for her to say something.
… there isn’t a simple solution here. There is no fast fix. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.
Dr. Robyn Silverman is the bullied girl from this story.
Her traumatic experiences in school – so painful that she now compares the trauma to that of her miscarriages later in life (her own words) – became a driving force behind her career.
Who is Dr. Robyn Silverman
Known as the “Conversation Doc,” Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist and the author of the book How to Talk to Kids About Anything (which absolutely hooked me). She’s also the host of a podcast with the same title.
Dr. Robyn views young people as assets to be nurtured, not as deficits to be managed.
One of Dr. Robyn’s strengths is teaching others how to make even the toughest conversations and parenting situations easier with practical and accessible tips, scripts, stories, and steps.
Recalling her past, she wishes those conversations had gone differently. That she had someone to truly listen and reassure her that she had done nothing wrong.
Kids going through tough times need someone to listen and say, ‘It’s not your fault’ instead of ‘Let me fix this.’
They don’t always need solutions – they need understanding.
(Especially in situations like the fifth-grade scenario where there is no immediate answer.)
It’s about genuine dialogue, where kids aren’t passive listeners but active participants.
Invite Your Kids to Talk About Anything
Bullying is just the tip of the topic iceberg for Dr. Robyn!
Ever had that heart-dropping moment when your kid, in front of the entire family, curiously asks about a wildly embarrassing topic?
Or the shock of discovering they were sexting?
Or felt the anxiety about a looming conversation about sex, divorce, or death?
It’s easy to feel flustered, uncomfortable, and at a loss for words. However, these tough topics are challenges all parents must confront at some point.
What should we say?
What should we avoid doing?
How can we earn their trust to share what’s troubling them?
How should we approach the conversation?
(If you want to really dive deep, tune in for my full interview with Dr. Robyn on YouTube as we talk about her latest book, How to Talk to Kids About Anything, and dive into tough conversations, building trust and ensuring our children feel seen and heard in every discussion, no matter how tricky.)
Dr. Robyn says that, ideally, the best time to bring up a tough topic with your kiddo is yesterday.
Seriously, we should start a dialogue with our kids from the earliest days of their lives.
But if that didn’t happen, the next best time is right now.
Of course, these talks should be adapted to their age and understanding, but by addressing any and every topic head-on and treating them as equal family members, you set them up for success later in life.
For instance, Dr. Robyn talked about adoption with her two adopted children from day one.
The goal wasn’t for them to grasp the concept right away (obviously, it wasn’t possible back then) but to shape her comfort in sharing it and to ensure they felt comfortable asking and talking about it.
And by the time they understood, they’d heard the story countless times.
Adoption was never taboo, scary, unusual, uncomfortable, or unknown.
Adoption was always welcome, comfortable, normal – a safe curiosity.
Equally important: discussing difficult subjects shouldn’t be a single, monumental “Talk.”
Instead, think of it as building a bridge with smaller conversations, brick by brick, over time.
Consider the topic of sex. Instead of a lengthy lecture, imagine a series of shorter chats. Discuss consent, body parts, boundaries, feelings, and the basics of reproduction. And when they’re ready for the finer details, they’ll ask. And that’s when you fit the final puzzle pieces into place.
Or, when diving into deep topics like death, start with tangible examples close to home, like a dried-up flower or a still bug. These simple moments pave the way for bigger talks.
You get the picture – it’s like climbing a mountain, taking it one step at a time.
When Is the Worst Time to Address Tough Topics
While it’s important to keep the doors open for all kinds of conversation, there IS a time when we should avoid heavy topics.
When emotions are running high, like during or immediately after a meltdown, tantrum, or outburst, for example. Instead, find calm moments – wait until the dust has settled.
Remember, it’s not about a single perfect moment, or one “good talk” – it’s about consistent, open communication.
The Power of Genuine Connection
Having a good, tough talk really depends on one main thing – feeling connected. (This is my favorite part because it fits perfectly with our “Calm the Chaos” approach.)
Building a connection isn’t just about deep chats. It can be as simple as spending quiet time together or talking about day-to-day stuff.
And the big thing is – real connection comes from truly listening.
Kids feel special when they see you value what they say, even in small talks.
For example, Roblox might be the last thing you want to talk about. But asking them questions like “Why do you like it?” or “How does it work?” or “Who were you playing with?” makes them feel important. This shows you care about their world.
When you really listen, you’re paying attention to your kid as a whole. You can understand their mood, energy, and emotions – you get to know them better.
And when they notice you noticing them – they feel valued, seen, and understood. They know you care about them on every level, from the video games to the challenges with friends.
So, when things get tough, they’ll come to you because they know you truly listen.
If you’re there for their mundane, you’ll definitely be there for the monumental.
The Science of Talking It Out
Talking with our kids about serious topics – like sex, money, death, illness, etc… it can feel super intimidating, I know.
But guess what?
The science behind these talks shows that kids actually like them!
We might get nervous or worry that we’re giving them ideas… but our children are curious and ready to listen!
And the best part?
When we open up about these heavy, potentially scary topics, our kids are safer.
They think twice before making big decisions. They have a better grasp of the consequences.
For example, a significant 2005 study showed that talking openly about suicide makes kids feel heard and understood, making them less likely to hurt themselves.
Or consider the super valuable money talks.
Kids who discuss finances with adults end up smarter with their money later on.
Opening up and talking helps our kids thrive.
Facing the Difficult Topics Together
The big takeaway?
Talking about hard stuff with our kids helps them feel more secure and make smarter, safer choices.
If you want more insights, don’t miss the full interview with Dr. Robyn Silverman, and check out the ways to connect with her at the end of this post
And remember, you’re exactly the parent your kid needs.
You are not a failure, your kid is not broken, and you are no longer alone.
You’ve got this!
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Calm the Chaos Parenting is a podcast offering parents practical tools and strategies to navigate the challenges of raising strong-willed, highly sensitive, and neurodivergent children.
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– Visit Dr. Robyn’s website
– Order Dr. Robyn’s book How to Talk to Kids About Anything
– Check out Dr. Robyn’s podcast, How to Talk to Kids about Anything
– Connect with Dr. Robyn:
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– Order your copy of Calm The Chaos Book
– Hear the Success Stories.
– Check out my website
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