This is one question that folk have been asking a lot lately and I thought I had tackled it in my recent Lazy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling… but apparently I didn’t say nearly enough. So I am going to chat about The Talk again, for all our sakes. I imagine that the reason most of us have “the talk” with our kids is because we don’t want them to hear it from their friends, especially since what they hear from their friends may be somewhat removed from the actual truth. We also want to be able to talk openly and honestly about relationships and the birds and the… bees with our kids. And, just saying, most of us want to be better at “the talk” than our parents were and most of us will never feel like our kids are ready. Trust me if you are thinking about if they are ready or not then they probably are. I have said it before and I will say it again, your kids are short, but not at all stupid.
Firstly let me put your mind to rest and say there is no one talk, just like everything else that is important in your kids’ life, there is one long conversation. With all the good intentions in the world… you will probably make mistakes, forget to say this and that, and only think “I should have said that” much much later. This is why it needs to be an ongoing conversation and not a once off talk. If you haven’t found time to start that conversation or the whole thing seems way too awkward for you then take a deep breathe and dive in. If you want grandchildren one day, and you want your kids to grow up and have great relationships then you need to get talking, not so much about the plumbing and the facts, that is a fairly quick conversation, but about relationships and what works and what doesn’t.
Se7en Steps to a Great Conversation
- Little People Ask Big Questions: Be prepared for them, and be prepared for lots of open and frank conversation. They may ask where babies come from, they may ask if everyone has a belly button, or how does the baby get out of mom’s tummy, or how did the baby get into mom’s tummy… they may ask why their siblings look different in the bath… they may not even ask, they may just find it hysterically funny. Either way, it is a good idea to call a spade a spade and provide at least the correct names for body parts. When you are chatting with your tots you don’t need to get overly detailed, ours were quite happy to know that their dad put the baby into mom’s tummy and we could move onto the next question, like can we have noodles for lunch. At this stage you are just talking to the natural curiosity of little kids, it is not the main purpose of their lives and they are not thinking about all things related to “the talk” at all… just living their naturally curious little, “why, why, why lives” join them, answer their questions and move on.
- Beyond the Naming of Parts: The next stage in our life long conversation has been to read these books, God’s Design for Se.x by Stan and Brenna Jones, I reviewed them years ago… and they are still serving their purpose in our home. The first book is really for young children old enough to sit through a story and tells a sweet story of a boy, whose mum is about to have a baby. It is really a conversation between a boy and his parents, in a normal loving christian family. In Book 2, the difference between girls and boys are talked about and a lot more about where babies come from. Book 3 moves from the story format to a more “grown up looking question and answer approach” for your preteen… this book is a good conversation starter as is Book 4 in the series. I read the older books with my kids before their bodies start re-adjusting, I know as a child I wanted to know everything that would happen to my body, long before it happened, I can’t imagine any child wanting any surprises. These books basically cover “the talk” … what happens, how it happens and answers questions at the same time. They are sweet and informative for younger children and informative and factual for older children. These books are positive, without being preachy… they do not overdramatize the whole event, the way the media does… just an open discussion and an easy introduction for parents to read with their kids.
- What About Those Rearranging Bodies: Some kids will take all the facts in their stride, some will be horrified and some will not believe you at all… just continue to be open and honest. Once they get over their initial horror they will be very aware that their body is about to change and rearrange… I have so many friends who have told me horrific tales of how they had never heard of a period at all before they encountered their first one. Just no, that is so unfair. Puberty is a terribly awkward time in anyone’s life, and is one time when ignorance is absolutely no advantage… I want my kids to know what’s going on, I want them to be confident… I want them to understand as much as they can before they reach all the impending milestones. We also leave these books where our kids can find them and refer to them… both books. My boys need to know what goes on in a girl’s body just as much as my girl’s need to know what goes on in a boy’s body. I have no time for taboos and feminine products hidden under lock and key. These are all natural processes, breaking voices, developing breas.ts, periods and all that stuff… shouldn’t be some closet taboo… it is a normal part of our bodies and who we are and I go there and talk about it. My boys need to understand that girls don’t always feel hundreds, simply because they are a girl and they must also be comfortable with the fact that they could well be asked to go shopping for their wives one day, this is not the time to say they may not go down “that aisle.” If your kids are old enough to need to know about the changes in their own bodies then it is time to learn about the bodies of the opposite se.x as well.
- Just Keep Them Talking: You need to know that your teens are thinking about relationships, you need to know that your kids are assessing what they see… they are bombarded in the media by relationships… the good, the bad and the ugly, and mostly the ugly… It is our job to teach them and demonstrate the kind of relationships they need to have in order to raise a family one day. I know you are close to your kids and I know you can talk to them about anything. The thing is most parents think their children are open with them and will talk about anything with them… that might be true for most topics, but not this one. If this is one area that is awkward for you to talk about then it is about a million times harder for your teen. Not only that, but if you don’t know a lot about a topic then is is very hard to ask about it. If you have said to your kids, “You can ask me anything…” then you have to follow that up with information… because how do they even know how to ask. You have to be the grown up here and get talking… talk about the things that you wished you had known about relationships, you need to tell your sons how to treat a girl and your daughters how to treat a guy… It is not so much about the se.x, but it is all about having a great relationship. If their are things you wish you had done differently, then talk to them… just the facts, nobody wants an emotional lecture in the middle of the night. If it feels like your child has moved to the foreign land of teenagedom, then next time you are giving them a lift somewhere just start talking… about relationships, the do’s and don’ts and if, like some of my kids they are always surrounded by a cloud of friends and you are lifting teens all over the place, just keep on talking, just look out of the windscreen and talk. No eye contact is a good thing, and if your son needs to learn that it is a good idea to treat a girl to a chocolate regularly then his friends probably need to know that as well.
- And Then What About Dating: The gist of what I hear from most parents is that their children won’t be dating until they finish their studies, their tertiary studies that is. “Hello, most parents,”… your kids are not on the same page as you are on this topic. You may not call it dating, but it is what it is. Almost all parents want their children to avoid a serious relationship until their kids have found their feet in the adult world. Actually, lots of folk grow up together. The truth is you and many of your friends may well have met their partner while they were in high school and your teens are wondering if the cute guy or gal at youth group is the one? They may believe that they have found the one… they may be right!!! Almost everything that your teens read or are taught will be how to avoid dating, how to fill their lives with busy-ness in order to avoid a serious relationship way too young. This is so completely the opposite of what your teens are thinking. It looks a bit like teens are thinking one thing, parents are thinking another… information is given from the parents perspective and right when the teens need to hear something positive they are totally discouraged. If you want to keep the conversation open you need to keep on talking, even during the long silences.
- Dating with Integrity by John Holzmann: I realised that we spend so much time teaching our kids what they need to get into college or varsity… but this is just a little mention that we are training our children for life, not for a career. You just have to be having this conversation with your kids and they will do anything to squirm out of it. Like I mentioned, chat in the car they are a captive audience, but that’s not really enough. We realised that we weren’t spending enough time just talking with our teens about the big stuff, so now we spend one evening a week, add hot chocolate to the mix, and we read books about relationships together. I really want my kids to have the best chance at long and happy relationships, I am prepared to put time and effort into it now. We found this book to be a great conversation starter, it wasn’t easy… but it is a completely different take on all the other books out there for teens. You may or may not agree with everything the author says, but you will be given lots to think about and there is absolutely no “bossiness” or “preaching at you” about what you should and should not do. The facts are stated quite clearly, and he uses anecdotes from his own life to create the conversation. We got a clear understanding of what we the parents, and the the kids thought dating actually was… we live in a world where the media describes dating as “You meet a person for the first time ever, you literally jump into bed with them and then you decide to get to know them better.” This unfortunately is very far from reality… in order to have a relationship with someone you need to be friends with them, and this book spends a lot of time on how to be friends with folk of the opposite se.x.
- For Young Men Only and For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn: Years ago the father person and I read the grown-up version of these books… and if you haven’t done this already, then may I just say these are the best relationship books ever, get them and read them. I was thrilled to discover a teen version. The book for young men is about what they can expect from young women and vice versa. These books are based on the collected answers of large surveys they sent to young men and women and they are surprisingly accurate at figuring out how young folk think. I think the great thing about these reads is that they are so relatable. As a teen you might think that the feelings you have are entirely your own and that you are all alone in the world, well these books totally open that up and make you realise that the things you feel are feeling are so completely normal. The chapters are short and easy to read… they keep it simple, they keep it funny… these are great great reads.
What can I say your kids need to know that you are their haven, that they really can talk to you about anything… they can ask you the big questions and you will answer them honestly. Get into their world and start this conversation with them, sooner rather than later. There are no guarantees that your kids aren’t going to get hurt, or make mistakes or even do crazy stuff… we all do that at some stage in our lives, some of us do better at it than others. What I can say is that you have to keep on talking, raise the awkward stuff, go there… I really hope this post encourages you to start the conversation with your kids.