Picture Books To Jumpstart Difficult Conversations With Your Kids


Picture Books To Jumpstart Difficult Conversations With Your Kids

I’ll be the first to admit that I shy away from uncomfortable conversations with my kids. I am well aware that they aren’t babies anymore. I also know that kids today are growing up faster than ever, and if I avoid teaching my kids about the way the world works, chances are that someone else will beat me to it. If I want to have any control over that narrative, I need to be the one to bring up those hard topics. 

But I feel completely overwhelmed and I have no idea where to start. You know what I am completely comfortable with? Bedtime stories. 

I know that one day my kids will become teenagers and they’ll outgrow them, but for now, my kids are still completely buying into the magic of listening to me read a picture book (or a chapter book) as they nod off to sleep. Sometimes with my oldest, it’s not so much that he wants a bedtime story, but he loves a good bedtime chat. It’s honestly the time of day when he is most open and willing to share what he did at school, discuss his anxieties and fears, or talk about his hopes and dreams for the future. The lights are dim, it’s quiet and peaceful, and I’m sitting by his bedside in the glow of his nightlight. There’s just something magical that happens in that twilight hour that doesn’t happen during any other time of the day. 

There are surprisingly many books written and geared towards children that discuss difficult topics. Some are written as fictional stories, and some are written as non-fiction. Reading a story together feels like a non-threatening way to open up a difficult topic for discussion. Perhaps the twilight hour can lend some of its magic to the hard conversations that I need to have with my children and work as a springboard into deeper discussion even during the daylight hours. I have to start somewhere, and this seems like the best place to start. 

Here are a few of the resources that I’ve gathered so far. Please comment with your suggestions to add to my list, because I need all of the help I can get!

Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson gives kids a child-friendly definition of what pornography is, how it becomes addictive, and what to do if they accidentally stumble across it online (i.e. close your eyes, turn away, run and tell an adult). This book explains pornography in such a way that children can read it and have a level of understanding on this topic before having the sex talk.

The Care and Keeping of You by Valerie Schaefer, published by American Girl, is a tried-and-true classic for helping an adolescent girl navigate the changes that she will experience during her teenage years. This book covers all sorts of puberty-related topics ranging from  personal hygiene to periods to wearing a bra. The illustrations are fun and engaging without being inappropriate or needing “parental guidance.” Guy Stuff by Cara Natterson, also published by American Girl, was written to be the male counterpart of the book The Care and Keeping of You. Geared towards boys aged 8 through 12 (and specifically not covering any topics related to sex or masturbation), this book covers changes that boys can expect in their adolescent and teen years, such as changing voices, body hair, and keeping up with proper hygiene. 

My Body is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard is another classic picture book that has stood the test of time. It is written as a fictional story with a character named Julie discussing what is and isn’t okay. Rather than making a blanket statement such as “adults should never touch a child’s private parts,” Julie discusses a variety of scenarios (a parent bathing a young child or changing a baby’s diaper) and how to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable with an adult. 

Baby J Says No by Jack Nunnery is a similar book perhaps intended for a younger reader that tells the story from the perspective of the fictional character Baby J. The book outlines which parts of the body are considered private (namely parts covered by a swimsuit) and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate touching. This book also empowers children to say “No!” to uncomfortable situations by having them practice shouting “No!” and interacting with different scenarios offered in the text.

God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb is another popular title that teaches children about how their body should be treated by other people. While some discussions of “private parts” might lead children to feel embarrassed or ashamed, this book uses a Christian perspective to counteract that and encourage children to celebrate their bodies, while also holding firm boundaries on how their bodies are shared with others. 
Many of the book recommendations on this list come from the Birds and Bees podcast with Mary Flo Ridley and Megan Michelson. Filled with episodes (ranging from 15 minutes to an hour) addressing uncomfortable parenting topics (and full of interviews with licensed professionals), this podcast is a valuable resource that will be helpful in figuring out the dos and don’ts of starting tough conversations with my children. If you end up loving the podcast, there is also full-length parenting seminar resource available for a subscription fee.

We hope you find these suggestions helpful! If you have any books you suggest adding to this list, let us know!


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