As adults, we are often told to avoid the topics of religion and politics at dinner parties. But, when it comes to talking to our kids, most of us avoid much more than that. According to a new poll, only 74% of parents have taught their kids about how to say “no” to sex, and only 60% of parents have talked to their kids about birth control. And while the numbers are better, when it comes to talking about relationships and values, 92% and 87%, respectively, we believe that parents can do better than that.
Sure, we understand that talking to your children about sex, relationships, and other sticky subjects can get awkward, but realize this: If you aren’t the one sharing this kind of knowledge with your children, someone else will. Unfortunately, children as young as toddlers are already getting messages from the media about how relationships are supposed to be. Knights are swooping in and saving princesses from towers, and a certain well-known-mermaid gave up her voice for love. Do we really want our little ones to believe that they have to be saved? Or, worse, that they have to give up who they are for love?
Of course not! We want our children to know that they are worthy and lovable, and that the right relationship will find them at the right time. We also want our kids to learn about respect, consent, and that both boys and girls have feelings that are important.
So, how do we convey these messages to our children?
Children have a keen sense for knowing when someone is lying to them. Instead of trying to make it sound like you’ve never been confused about sex or relationships, share your experiences. You don’t need to go into detail, or cross boundaries to do this, but you can share things like the first time you ever had a crush on someone. Just knowing that you’ve gone through similar situations might make your child more willing to open up to you.
Realize that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to shield your child from all hurt. Having crushes, falling in love, and getting your heart broken are part of life, and they are the experiences that most great art comes from. Have faith that you have taught your child the basics of finding a good friend; someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and genuine, and encourage them to look for those same qualities in a mate.
Recognize that there is no absolute right or wrong way to talk about sensitive topics. As long as you are present and available, you are providing a safe space for your children to explore these murky waters. Just don’t take it personally if they act like they’d rather be having a root canal.
Still, talking to your kids about love, sex, and relationships doesn’t have to be painful! Contact us for more help.