Keep door open for kids’ ‘difficult’ questions

When do you have “the” talk with your kids? What content do you include without overwhelming them? Is there a setting that makes it less awkward for everyone? Who should initiate it? It’s not like we can consult the parenting handbook/user manual we get when we have kids.

Which talk is “the” talk anymore? It’s not just the birds and the bees, it’s also about the birds and the birds, not to mention bees dressed like birds, and so many other variants. But “the” talk really has to cover all risky behaviours. It’s the sex, drugs, and rock and roll talk. It’s not just a conversation about abstinence to avoid getting pregnant anymore. It’s about consent, which links in drugs and alcohol as well. It’s about respecting your partner. It’s about emotional readiness. It’s about diseases, and other risks. It’s about puberty, and hormones, and knowing your own body and your partner’s. It’s also peer pressure. It’s about pleasure.

With social media, cellphones, and readily available, free pornography online, an increase in sex, violence, and drugs in movies and television shows, parents can’t avoid these topics. The legalization of marijuana definitely didn’t help with drawing hard lines in the sand about drugs.

We often default to our own experience to figure out how to talk to our own children, but it’s truly a different world now. I didn’t even know that I had to tell my children not to send nor request naked photos to/of others, until a local teen had a photo get passed around electronically, leading to police being involved as it is child pornography. This is serious stuff. If you think your children are immune, think again.

I always tried to stay ahead of the curve, figuring that when they are younger, children are more open and receptive to new information, and haven’t decided yet that parents don’t know anything. For me, I use drives in the car as a neutral, non-threatening setting to have some of these talks, because with my eyes focused on the road, we could avoid eye contact with me, and eye-rolling, and seeing the other potentially blushing.

The car is where we talked about swear words and them not being tall enough to reach them yet. That’s where we talked about the dangers of smoking (though the schools did a pretty good job on this one). We’ve since also had several talks about vaping being potentially even more dangerous, with the recent deaths linked to what was supposed to be a safer way to “smoke.” This is also where we’ve had talks about legal and illegal drugs and alcohol. Sex topics have also been brought up in the car.

I’m always happy when a television show or movie brings up a topic that I can ask the kids their thoughts about, sometime pausing the movie, or waiting to the end. One series brought of the conversation of suicide in our house. We’ve also had conversations about anxiety, depression, and other aspects of mental health.

I don’t think anyone enjoys having these conversations, but the more normal we make them, we give our kids the message that the door is always open to ask questions, even the difficult ones.

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