Being Intentional About “The Talk”
Having “the talk” with your child can be a stressful mile marker on your parenting journey. These discussions can be as anxiety provoking for you as a parent as they are for your child. Don’t stress out! Be intentional about having this important conversation with your child while being mindful of their feelings on the subject. Phasing these topics into your regular conversations with your children and carefully planning out these discussions work really well for most parents.
When Is The Right Time To Have “The Talk”?
As with most parenting milestones, the answer really is, there is no perfect time. It really is up to your child and up to you as a family to determine when the time is right. Parents can watch for clues and listen to the types of questions their kids are asking to determine when the time is right to start having these important conversations.
It is helpful to begin these conversations as early as it makes sense for your family. It’s never too early to begin having these conversations with your child. Many parents begin discussions around gender differences and privacy as early as potty training or when their child begins recognizing their own body parts. Feel free to use your strength of social intelligence to consider other factors in their environment that may impact your need to have these discussions. For instance, what are other kids talking about, did something come up on a TV show or movie that prompted questions from your kids, do they interact with older children on the bus, in sports or in other social situations where they may need to understand things they may hear? These are all things that could impact the timing of the talk.
If the topic doesn’t come up sooner, a good time to begin these conversations may be when schools begin education around body changes. This is a good time to start having your own discussions to clarify the information you are receiving and to answer their questions at home in a more comfortable environment. Using the school’s discussions is a “door opener” for you to begin the talk.
How To Start The Conversation
Many parents find it easy to start the conversation around changes in the body. Sudden growth, the appearance of body hair, the need for deodorant, or the need or desire to begin shaving are obvious physical cues that it’s time to have the talk. Your children may also begin exhibiting an interest in their appearance. All of these behaviors are natural and important opportunities to initiate the talk since speaking with your children about their bodies may help address, diffuse and comfort any anxiety and awkwardness they may be feeling about growing up. Remember though, these are important issues to discuss with your child on an ongoing basis. The focus of your discussions may change as they grow up, but it is important to keep these conversations going.
Who Should Have The Talk?
Should mom have the talk with your daughter? Dad to son? Rock, paper, scissors? The best case scenario is that this is a team effort involving both parents presenting a united front. It is important to be very clear that you both are open and comfortable in having this conversation. Parents, this will likely take some pre-pep talking and self-management to make sure your kids are not “weirded out” by you and the topic. This will go a long way in establishing trust so your kids feel comfortable approaching you with questions and concerns in the future. Many of us want to create a space where your kids to come to you with these questions rather than turning to their friends, an older sibling, or the internet. If it’s just you, or if your child is much more comfortable speaking to just mom or dad, it’s okay to respect the one-on-one conversation, but important to make sure you are on the same page with what is being shared.
They’re Going to Have Questions Aren’t They?
Yep! Kids will lean into their strength of curiosity or love of learning. But, they may not ask them right away. That is what it is important to be open and non-judgmental. When they do have questions, let your kids take the lead. Your brain may go all the way to the end of this discussion (i.e. too far), but they may have important questions along the way that you need to answer intentionally. Your kids need you to respond clearly to the questions they have in a meaningful way. Double check with them to make sure they received the answer they were looking for.
“The talk” really is about more than just about biology or the act of intimacy. It is really about healthy relationships and helping your child understand how to develop and maintain them in the future. The sooner you begin these conversations, the better. Children these days have so much access to information whether it be from their friends, the internet, or from anywhere that may not share your family’s values. Don’t worry though; with an intentional approach that is mindful of your child’s feelings, you’ll get through this and be on to the next parenting milestone!