Parents, if you have not talked with your kids recently about puberty, sex, drugs, (or whatever your tough subject might be), think about how you might change that.
Kids, if there is something you want to talk or learn about but don’t know how to begin, try writing it down and slipping your parent a note. While face-to-face conversations are best, even texting your parent a question is better than not asking it all. It is very normal to feel uncomfortable talking about personal topics that you have not discussed before.
I have learned from reading and observation that parents/adults sitting their kids down for a rehearsed, long talk about the birds and the bees or other topic du jour is not always the best strategy. Your audience is less likely to hear you (by tuning you out if it feels interminable) and might not engage. Let me illustrate with a true story:
A couple of years ago, my husband went into our then 10 year old son’s room, excited to have a heart to heart talk about the metamorphosis his gangly body would soon begin and new feelings he would experience with increased hormones surging through his body. Feeling pretty good about having shared such intimate information with our son, he concluded the discussion with the predictable “Is there anything you want to ask me?”
After a seemingly endless pause and in obvious deep thought, our son replied: “Dad, who do you think is a better pitcher, Tim Lincecum from the San Francisco Giants or Jon Lester from the Red Sox?”
Parent Lesson: Keep it brief. Instead of a single long discussion, try having a series of mini conversations (e.g. 3 minutes) either when the opportunities present themselves or when you feel your child is ready (and this will likely be sooner than you might be ready). Many of these talks will be impromptu, sparked by a news item on the radio when you are driving together, or an event at school your child shares with you. There are so many opportunities in our daily lives that offer great conversation starters….a commercial on television for sanitary products or erectile dysfunction elixirs are examples of good starting points. Once you open your eyes and ears, you will notice that there are ample opportunities to (courageously) start addressing a variety of important subjects that are not being taught anywhere else.
Kids: If you are watching television or hear something on the radio or school bus that you are curious about but feel embarrassed to bring up, you are not alone. Most kids and many grown-ups have a tough time talking about certain subjects. Yet parents and other trusted adults in your life are the best sources of information for these discussions. Try to muster up the courage to bring up your questions with your parent one way or another. Parents are sometimes distracted with other things and don’t realize you might be curious about some of these important topics. Asking them is a good way of letting them know you are ready to learn. Chances are, you will both feel relieved.