From the moment dad cuts the umbilical cord, you dread the “birds and the bees” talk. You never know when it’s the right time or what to say. Then, as your kids get older, you realize that there are even more talks like this one. These sensitive topics will help your kids cope with things as they grow in maturity.
In truth, there’s not a set age to have any talk. You can start talking about sensitive topics at any time, as long as you keep the conversations age appropriate.
Here are some tips to help the conversation flow well:
- Choose a good time
As parents, we know that it’s dangerous to put things off until a better time. Still, you’ll want to make sure you have your children’s attention and they’re in relatively good spirits before sitting down to discuss something sensitive. If your child is overtired, “hangry” or stressed, the conversation won’t go as well. Let your children know you want to have a talk and give them time to wrap up what they’re doing. This way, you’ll have their undivided attention (in theory).
- Share facts
Whether you’re discussing death, sex or drugs in school, try to find some information that your kids won’t have. Lead with your most surprising statistic to help grab their attention. Example:
“Did you know that 40 percent of the cigarettes smoked in this country are smoked by people with confirmed psychiatric disorders? Regardless of what your friends think, smoking isn’t something that people do because it’s ‘cool.’ Many people are self-medicating with tobacco and other drugs.”
- Make it a conversation
When you’re the only one talking, you’re giving a lecture instead of having a conversation. By asking questions, you’ll keep the kids interested and you may even find out things you didn’t know. Try to ask a question every time you introduce new information. Questions like, “have you ever heard of that?”, “how do you feel about this?” or “do you know anyone who does that?” are good ways to get kids to interact with the topic. When your kids are talking and sharing with you, be sure to give them your full attention. Listen intently and respond to what they’re saying. It’s important that your kids feel like you value their thoughts and opinions.
- Avoid getting angry or impatient
None of us are perfect and we all have moments when we lose our tempers. However, this should never happen during a sensitive conversation. If your kids are acting out, let them know you’ll have the conversation when they’re ready. Just be sure to bring it up again. If your children are being silly or goofy, this could mean that they’re uncomfortable with the topic. That’s completely normal. Explain that this is a serious talk and try to keep your cool. If you handle these conversations well, your children may become more comfortable talking about sensitive topics, which is a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.
- Avoid judgment
Let’s say you’re talking to your kids about drugs and they tell you that a friend is smoking pot. Be careful about your reaction here. You’ll want to be clear that it’s a poor choice without attacking anyone’s character. You can also explain that if he or she knew certain facts, they likely wouldn’t have made the decision to smoke pot in the first place.
In these conversations, you have two main objectives. First, you want to arm your child with the facts about these sensitive topics. It’s better that they hear the truth from you than myths from their peers. The truths you share should help your child manage feelings and make sound decisions. Second, you’ll want to let your child know that you’re always there to talk and listen. Keep an open dialogue and the next time you talk about something sensitive, it’ll feel more natural.