Explaining tough topics to young children can be difficult and nerve-wracking for parents. But laying a foundation by asking the right types of questions and exhibiting the right forms of behavior will help them start to understand real-world issues at a developmentally appropriate level.

One tough topic near and dear to our hearts at Kiddie Academy is family homelessness. In the United States today, one child out of six lives in poverty, and families with children make up 35% of the people who experience homelessness. That’s why we’ve partnered with Family Promise, a national nonprofit organization that helps families experiencing homelessness and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.

Homelessness is a big topic for little minds, but it’s an important one to teach children about. Here are some tips for talking to your children about family homelessness (and other tough topics):

  • Remember that young children will take things literally, so use their developmental age to guide the conversation.
  • Ask open-ended questions based on what they already know, so you can reaffirm or correct wrong messaging.
  • Use literature to help with starting the conversation (see book list below).
  • Limit exposure to inappropriate subject matter.
  • Keep in mind that young children will react based on parents’ reactions—reassure them.
  • Be honest. 
  • Parents know their children best, use your best judgment on how far and deep to go.

Another way to make the topic of family homelessness more understandable is to demonstrate to your child your family can help other families and participate in events that spread awareness like Night Without a Bed:

Supporting Night Without a Bed is easy. Your family can participate by sleeping anywhere but in your beds: in a tent, car or even on your own living room floor. You can post photos with the hashtags #NightWithoutABed and #KiddieAcademyFamilyPromise and promote them on your social media feeds to drive awareness.

This relatable experience allows the powerful topic of homelessness to be more easily understood by young children. 

Reading Recommendations:

Still a Family: A Story about Homelessness by Brenda Reeves Sturgis illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee recommended ages 4-9 

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story by Erin Gunti illustrated by Estelí Meza, recommended ages 3-7

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying Hwa Hu, recommended ages 5-9

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B Williams, recommended ages 4-8