Talking about sex with your child can be just as daunting as talking about drugs with your child. How can parents approach the subject without embarrassing their children and themselves?
• This really does depend on how your child develops physically and emotionally. Both of which can happen a different times. There are some really good books out there now for tweens & young teens about changes that happen to both boys and girls, and I think it’s really important for both to understand how the opposite sex develops as well. By buying one of these books, it introduces your child to the idea of changes and even just telling them that they can read it in their own time and ask you any questions they may have gives your child a sense of freedom and also allows them to process things in their own head. This way they can come to you when they are ready and not just when you think ‘they should know’.
• Children are capable of understand so much from quite a young age. From 2-3 you can start to refer to parts of the body by their actual names, this actually will help when it comes to more in depth conversations in later years.
• 7-8 is a good age to begin to talk about where babies come from. Be factual and you can continually refer to the importance of a healthy loving relationship.
• 8-9 is also a good time to begin discussing the changes that will occur in your child’s body and the body of the opposite sex.
• There are some very good books out there for boys and girls on the changes that take place.
• As you discuss relationships, it’s so important to constantly refer to healthy relationships and model this. Ask your children what they think a healthy relationship should be like and discuss from there.
Our children are growing up in a digital age now, how can this impact on our children’s ideas of relationships?
• Remember you are your child’s biggest role model, so how you conduct your relationships has been teaching them from day one.
• So many teens put huge weight on getting large amounts of “likes” and “online friends” but there are so many dangers linked to this.
• It’s important to teach our children about healthy relationships and what they look like. Pornography and the general media distort the reality of what a healthy relationship is like. We need to take this on board and not leave our children to see that this is what relationships should be like.
Comedians will regularly joke about teens becoming irrational and everything being “So unfair!” Why is this the case?
• There are actual physical and emotional changes that take place in teens that cause them to be quite moody. A teenagers brain grows and develops are a really rapid rate and this can cause their moods to shift just as quickly.
• Also due to these rapid changes, teenagers have poor impulse control so they can say things they don’t mean.
• The physical changes that teens go through also impact on their moods. In girls, they get their monthly cycle and this can cause significant mood swings.
• Both boys and girls are trying to get to grips with who they are in the world and put with the physical and emotional changes, can lead them to feel very insecure.
• Your preteen/teen has much more of an understanding about what happens in the world and it isn’t a nice place sometimes. As a child, they just had to worry about who they were going to play with or what was for dinner but as they get older they begin to fully realise that people hurt and kill people, that animals are killed for food and other realisations that can be hard to get to grips with.
What can a parent do to support their child through the teens?
• Don’t just dismiss what is happening a “they’re just being moody!” It’s important for your child (no matter what age) to know that their feelings matter and are important to you. This can be difficult, especially if it is a regular occurrence but you have to remember that that break up at 14 really does feel like the end of the world to your child.
• Our bodies tell us how we are feeling before our mind does. We will feel a tightening in our stomach or sweating etc, so let’s work with our teens to help them to recognise these signs and offer tips to reduce their stress levels.
• Maintaining physical health will have a significant impact on how our children can deal with their emotional health. Both are as important as the other. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily, getting exercise etc are all so important to being able to maintain our health. We also need to be part of this and model the importance of physical health.
• Talk about how we cope with issues and how they can do the same. This can be hard as we have to look at ourselves and realise that our children see how we deal with issues. Let them know that they can take time out, go for a walk, talk to someone they trust and relaxation techniques in order to de-stress.
• Encourage your teens to get out and about. There are more and more options being brought onto the market to keep us indoors or interacting online. Make sure your children are involved in activities and encourage them to spend time with their friends.
• Teach them social responsibility. One of the most fulfilling things we can do is give time to help others. Getting our kids volunteering will give them so much personally while helping others at the same time.
You can download our free factsheet - Helping Teens Cope