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How to talk to your child about poverty

Poverty is complex and even for adults it can be challenging to comprehend.

So where do we begin with our children? As parents, do we shy away or reveal all?

Here are five top tips to equip you for conversations with your child as they ask questions and learn more about the inequalities of the world.

Be honest and listen.

The world can be hard to understand, especially for children. Why do some people hurt others? Why do other children have more than us?  Why don’t some kids have homes, and mums and dads to look after them?

The questions children have are real, and raw. As parents, we can listen. Every question is valid and sometimes a child simply needs to be heard. To have someone sit with them and say, “That’s a hard question. The world isn’t always fair, or just, and that upsets me too” is a powerful thing. Acknowledge that you’ve heard their question, and that you get upset too about things that don’t seem right in the world.

Let go. You don’t need all the answers.

World issues are complex – and that’s okay!

You don’t need to unpack the history of Afghanistan, or try and explain how India’s political system works. It’s not about the details. It’s about acknowledging that the world isn’t perfect and not all people, governments and businesses alike mess up and don’t do things in the best interests of others. Acknowledge how easy it is for people to act in self-interest (often for money and power) and do the wrong thing by others, especially the vulnerable. Try to remind them that we all make mistakes and do the wrong thing, even as children. That doesn’t mean we can’t be better and learn to be kinder to others.

The questions children have are real, and raw. As parents, we can listen.

Lean on child-like optimism and hope

Kids are full of energy and optimism. While as adults it’s easy to feel bombarded by stories of crisis – there are just as many stories of hope. Reflect on the joy of laughing or being there for a friend in need. Everyday moments of hope happen all around us. It’s important to remember this when talking with a child. Children need to be reminded of the fun and wonderful things in the world – especially after a difficult conversation.

Encourage action

Learning is always at its best when it can be put into action! Don’t forget to ask your child what they’d like to do to help, particularly if the conversation has made them upset. Share that we all have the opportunity to help and make a difference through our actions. This could be putting $5/month from their pocket money towards sponsoring a child as a family, choosing to buy a Fairtrade item when you’re next at the supermarket, or running a bake sale or fundraiser at school. Once they’ve shared their ideas, decide on an action together and get going!

Keep it going. Keep talking

Teaching children about global inequality doesn’t end after one conversation. Keep journeying, and keep talking by being open to questions. You could even continue learning together through activities like researching a country, talking about the news, or cooking a new food (Vietnamese springs rolls or Nepalese dumplings are always good fun!).  Depending on the age of your child they will be at a different point on the journey. Let their interest lead you in how to take things forward and continue the conversation.

Teach your child about the world.

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