As parents, we love our children and want what’s best for them as they grow older and begin to enter the world, independent of us. However, if we really want them to be well-developed and be the best people that they can be, that means opening a line of communication with them that will be fruitful as they continue to get older. It may not necessarily be difficult for you to talk with your kids about fun things they did that day, or other topics of happiness, but there are topics that we all dread the day when we need to confront our children about it.
Topics like sex and drugs can make parents incredibly squeamish, and that’s definitely true for kids, too. But it’s important to remember that your kids are developing and learning all of the time, whether you’re facilitating it or not. As kids go through life, they change. They make new friends; they hear things they shouldn’t hear, they suffer with things like losing a family member, moving away from their friends, and eventually have to go through puberty. Avoiding difficult topics doesn’t mean they aren’t getting that information, it just means that they are getting it in a chaotic way that blends in with the rest of their life as they rapidly grow up. Because of this, it is important that they hear about these things from their parents. Make no mistake, though; they’ll learn about them, whether from you or not. As such, here are some important things to remember when communicating with your children…
BE UPFRONT ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Addiction is one of the most critical public health issues of our time. The rate of addiction has continuously climbed since 1995, and today, nearly 10% of American adults struggle with dependence to either drugs or alcohol. One recent survey showed that almost half of high school seniors had used alcohol or drugs in the last year. Knowledge is power, though, and having a candid conversation with our children about substance abuse can significantly decrease the risk of their developing an addiction.
Don’t fall into a false sense of security, believing that your child will get all the drug education they need in school. It’s essential to talk these things over in a personal conversation. Not only does it open up the channel of communication if they have questions, but it can also bring you closer together before the start of those difficult teen years. Here are some tips to help the conversation go better:
- Educate yourself, first. It’s important to arm yourself with real facts beforehand. Learn what some of the most common drugs today are, and what their effects are. Don’t sensationalize things, but don’t skirt around hard truths, either.
- Start early. You might think that the topic won’t even come up until your child is in High School, but many parents learn to their dismay that by the time they broach the subject, it’s already had a big impact on their child’s life. For this reason, it’s important for parents and schools to start early.
- Take advantage of teaching moments. The talk doesn’t always have to be one big moment. You lay the groundwork with smaller things, and follow up in little ways. If it comes up on television, talk about it with your children. Discuss medications that you administer to your children, and make sure that they understand that even prescription medication can be dangerous when abused.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT MONEY
This topic may not have occurred to you as a necessary discussion to have with your children. But debt is such a prevalent problem, nowadays. And debt is incurred earlier than ever. Unfortunately, many of us are just as squeamish talking about money as we are about anatomy. We need to work harder to make sure that our kids are financially prepared to handle the future. This starts with a direct, sit-down conversation that helps them be aware of how important finances are, but should continue with exercises that teach your children about saving their money, making spending decisions, and understanding credit.
SEX ISN’T SOMETHING YOU CAN AVOID
This is the one that everyone is most apprehensive about. And yet, as a society, we’re getting better. Over 90% of parents talk with their children about sex. However, studies show that the talk is also usually a one-time thing, without much follow-up, and without tackling the tricky details involved, like birth control, consent, pornography, and STDs. Over half of teens say that they don’t feel comfortable bringing up topics pertaining to human sexuality with their parents. Even more worrying, almost 40% of teens don’t get the talk about sex until after they’ve become sexually active.
Remember: it’s better for children to get real information from you than misguided or over-hyped information elsewhere. And you probably feel more awkward about it than your child does! Here are some other tips to help you communicate effectively with your child:
- Again, start early! They’re confronting these issues sooner than you think.
- Use the correct anatomical terms, instead of analogies and symbols that will just leave them more confused.
- Discuss the emotional effects and ramifications, as well, including relationships.
- Talk about how to set boundaries and what safe sex means.
- Follow up with your children. Their understanding and relationship with sexual topics will mature and develop as they do. Sometimes, their important questions won’t crop up until later. Keep the dialogue open.
Building channels of communication with your child early in their life is something that will pay off later on, when they know they can come to you with a variety of different issues. Over time, it also makes you a better communicator about a variety of topics. If you’d like more tips on better communication, check out this informative article.