Most parents want to be the one their kids turn to for questions about sex, puberty, peer pressure and growing up. These are the most common ways parents shut down communication, without even realizing it, and what you can do to OPEN the lines of communication with your kids.
#5: NOT SAYING ANYTHING
So many parents don’t know what to say or how much information to give so they end up not saying anything. Kids can have a lot of questions about growing up but often get the message that mom and dad are not comfortable talking to them about “private things.” Instead they go elsewhere for their sex education: (Often times to friends, TV, and the internet-which don’t always give them the best or most accurate information). Even though it can be embarrassing, starting this conversation with your children is a powerful way to stay connected through their teen years.
#4: NOT SAYING ENOUGH
Often times parents have “The Talk” and think, “Woo hoo! I’m glad that’s done!” However, to really create an open dialogue with your child, try to bring up puberty, relationships and sex regularly so you have an ongoing discussion. Although some kids are comfortable asking their parents about sex, others are not. Look for teachable moments like watching movies together, listening to songs in the car, etc. and talk about the messages they are getting and what they think about them. Keep books on hand, define vocabulary and keep the conversation going.
#3: WORRYING INSTEAD OF EDUCATING
Worrying is tricky because it feels like we are being good parents, taking productive action, but it doesn’t tend to give us the results we want. When your child picks up on your worries, they will either tune you out and ignore your advice, or decide that the world is a scary place and become anxious and afraid. Knowledge is power and communicating with that intention will help your child feel confident and connected to you.
#2: THINKING “IT’S OVER THEIR HEADS”
Many parents think the sexual content in TV, movies, and magazines, goes over kids heads. Even if kids don’t look like they are paying attention, they pick up a surprising amount of sex education, much of it inappropriate, from the media. When kids are exposed to sexual scenes, humor or information, they need their parents to help them understand what it means. Kids are not only very aware and intelligent, their friend Google is nearby to help them answer any questions they might have. It’s important to teach kids values and to pass on what you think is important.
#1: USING SARCASM & TEASING
When parents are uncomfortable with a topic, sometimes they will talk about it by teasing or joking around. While laughing is always encouraged, when this is the only approach, kids won’t turn to their parents when they have serious questions, concerns or topics where they feel vulnerable.
The good news is that by making an effort to be comfortable talking about sex with your child (even if inside you are cringing!) sends the message that you want your child to come to you with his or her questions or worries. And although they may not act like it, studies show that kids WANT their parents to talk to them about sexuality, intimacy, and puberty.