Parenting can be quite a challenge, even when things are going pretty well. We really are living in some of the easiest times according to the numbers–childhood mortality has never been lower–but it doesn’t always feel that way in the moment. There are still so many struggles the average parent faces, just ask anyone with kids!

Some of these difficulties are more personal, like what to do when your kid is being bullied…or doing the bullying. Others feel so much larger, like figuring out how to talk to them about something as terrible as a school shooting. Let’s dive into some of these issues facing parents today, including those heavier topics. We’ll also be donating to Everytown, an organization that’s working to prevent future firearm violence in schools. You can check out our other Social Impact articles here.

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General Parenting Difficulties

Let’s start with some groundwork on the difficulties parents face in general. When surveyed, 73% of parents say that parenting is their biggest challenge. At the same time, 91% say it’s also their greatest joy–those statistics aren’t very different for moms versus dads, either. It’s pretty clear that parents feel that their children are one of the most important part of their lives. This often means that major news stories about violence directed at kids can feel pretty paralyzing.

About 70% of parents say that their romantic relationship took a back seat after the birth of their child. For some, having kids may open up new supportive relationships. For many others, it can be pretty isolating. Most parents also report feeling judged by others–and nearly half say they feel that way nearly all of the time. When a person lacks an emotional support system, it can make every bit of bad news that much harder to handle.

Specific Parenting Fears

When you ask parents what they’re most afraid of, their fears are pretty understandable. What if I’m not doing enough to make sure my child lives a good life? What if I’m not doing enough to protect them–from accidents or from strangers? We know today that “stranger danger” isn’t nearly as common as we were taught when we were kids. Unfortunately, there are still devastating instances that remind us that unexpected violence by strangers is still a possibility. Nearly two-thirds of parents are somewhat or very worried about school shootings. It’s difficult to avoid hearing about difficult news stories, for both kids and adults.

Talking to Kids About Difficult Topics

Adults often struggle to even know if they should bring up difficult topics with their kids. With the rise of both social media and lightning speed communication, it’s nearly impossible to keep many things from them completely. They’re bound to hear about the most recent shooting at a school, a rally on something they don’t understand and other topics that might lead to some pretty big emotions. Maybe they even hear about Grandma’s diagnosis from a cousin on Instagram.

The first step can feel like the hardest: bring up the topic with your child. Try to find a time that’s quiet with not a lot else going on. If you can, aim to have the conversation early enough so that they’re not learning about it from other people first. It’s okay to use a short script if you’re not sure what to say. Try to keep your expectations low for how they’ll react, kids process things on their own schedule. Just be ready for future conversations as things come up for them.

How to Help

In this article, we’ve tried to offer up some immediate advice on how to talk to your own child about big and often difficult topics. We know that there are plenty of opinions on the best way to prevent tragedies like school shootings. Contact your state representatives to add your voice and your opinion. Aside from that, we hope that there’s something useful in there for you in the here and now. If you as a parent feel yourself unable to handle the bigger emotions, it can be difficult to guide your child through their feelings. Make sure you’re taking your own mental health seriously as a parent, too.