Imagine this... You've noticed the first signs of your son or daughter entering puberty. Hair in new places, body odor, breasts budding, and the wonderful new attitude that hormones seem to ignite. You've had a good, strong relationship with your child. You still do. But … you know you need to keep conversations going about body changes, crushes, relationships, sexuality and suddenly, you're talking, they're not. Maybe they're rolling their eyes, looking past you, shrugging their shoulders. Or, maybe they listen when you talk, but they are silent. Now what?
First of all, it is normal for teens to have their silent times, their talkative times, and indifferent times.
Second, remember that you have been communicating with your kids about sexuality and relationships from the moment they were born—whether you've ever actually had "THE Talk" about these topics or not. They have been watching you, listening, and absorbing your families' values from day one.
However, this is a challenge many families face. A hesitant or resistant child when it comes to conversations around sex. I often get the question, "What do you do when your child won't talk to you about sex?" This is a tough one. The earlier we begin conversations, the less big of a deal they will be. Once kids begin to experience puberty changes and these talks have not been initiated, the more challenging they can become. Here are some expert tips to continue these important conversations.
1. Use teachable everyday moments. What's a teachable moment? It's an opportunity that you find to say something brief about sexuality that might affirm a value important to you, or provide accurate information, or express the way you feel about a sexual situation. Look for organic and real opportunities to talk about sexuality, relationships, gender, and more. TV and movies are loaded with them. The news and social media is another easy source of plentiful material. Is there a neighbor or a family member getting a divorce or that is pregnant? A friend from school that was adopted or has same sex parents? Look for things in their everyday environment to bring the subject up. If that doesn't work, create your own teachable moments. Buy a book, movie, or watch a YouTube video that can help you broach the topic.
2. Ask questions. See what your child thinks. LISTEN twice as long as you talk. Instead of lecturing and sharing what you believe all the time make room for your child to explore their own thoughts and beliefs about important topics.
3. Share stories. Both your own and other peoples. Sometimes the best way to talk about things is through story. You can convey values and beliefs and discuss mistakes and lessons learned this way. This can be an excellent tool to talking.
4. Watch your tone and facial expressions. What do you look and sound like when you talk about sex? Do you lecture or discuss the subject? Both can have an effect on your conversations in a BIG way! Be sure you aren't being condescending, act too shocked or embarrassed yourself, or assume things when you do have conversations.
5. Have others you trust initiate conversations. Maybe an aunt, uncle, cousin, family friend, or other trusted adult could have a talk with your son or daughter. Kids do hear others differently than you. It can be a tremendous benefit to make sure your child hears the correct information from someone. If your child seems to struggle hearing about the subject from you definitely elicit others for help. Taking a Talk course or other program with a sexuality expert can be extremely beneficial as well.
6. Write it down. Send an email, text, or write a letter to your child explaining how you feel or what you'd like them to know. At least this way you know you'll get out all you want to say.
7. Do your research. Find a great channel on YouTube, look up tips from experts, and read some great parenting books. This will give you additional strategies and talking tips to feel confident when having these talks. Check out our FREE Parenting Course to get started.
8. Schedule a date. Some parents have told me that the best conversations they have with their teens occur when they make a special time for just the two of them. Go out to a meal together, shopping, or play a game. Other parents say they have good opportunities when they're driving somewhere in the car together because at least one of them has to have their eyes on the road. If the subject is uncomfortable, they don't even have to make eye contact!
9. Ask for information about other kids. For example, ask what "most" kids in school do if they feel pressured to do something. Or, ask what your son or daughter's friends think about the puberty video shown at school. Be careful to NOT assume that you know what your son or daughter thinks or feels. If the conversation is going well, ask what your daughter or son thinks or feels about what "other" kids are choosing to do/not do. Ask open ended questions that they cannot answer yes or no to in order to keep the conversation flowing.
10. Talk anyways. Don't let their silence silence you. If your child gets embarrassed or squeamish, talk anyways. Acknowledge their discomfort or their eyes rolling and tell them that you understand how they feel, but that this subject is simply too important to not discuss. That you love them and that their health and safety will always be your #1 priority. You could share that this is tough for you too but that you do need to talk about it. Even when they don't seem to be listening, they are. They hear you. Talk anyways.
Always remember your kids are getting a sex education from their peers, media, and society. You simply cannot be the only one not talking to them. Even if they seem to not want to hear about it, press on. You've got this. Let us know if we can help. Happy parenting!
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