Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Having "The Talk" With Your Children

Did your parents ever sit you down, with sweaty palms, and nervous words and attempt to tell you the facts of life? My mom was of the generation with the mindset that "we don't talk about those kinds of things" she talks about it now that we are adults. But, luckily for me I had a sister 13 years older than I, who got married at a young age. Who could and did answer any questions I might have had.

I've had friends tell me their stories of how their parents (usually their mom) sat them down and had "the talk" with them. And about how embarrassed and even mortified they were. A memory they cannot forget. So, I ask you; why would we want to do that to our kids?

Dr. Phil says (and I really agree with him on this one) that talking to our kids about the facts of life should not be A conversation. It should be many conversations, that take place all during our children's life. Not a once in a life time deal, when we work ourselves all up and get so nervous that we can barely get the words out. Imagine the impact of that on a child.

Instead, sex and puberty, etc. should be things, like everything else, that we talk about regularly. When we were youth pastors we had teenagers ask us ALL KINDS of questions, some that would embarrass Dr. Ruth! And I determined then, before my kids were old enough to even talk that I wanted an open relationship with them where they would feel comfortable talking to me about anything.

So, anytime they ask a question I try to never say, "we'll talk about that later, when your older" but, to answer it. If they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know the answer. And here is my rule of thumb: answer all questions in the simplest form possible. If the answer doesn't suffice they will continue to ask more questions and you can answer with more depth. They are children and do not need to know everything you know as an adult, but you don't want them getting answers from the wrong sources.

For example when my kids see a commercial on T.V. and ask me: what is a condom anyway? I start with something like: it's something men use when they have sex, so their wife doesn't get pregnant, If that's what's age appropriate, or If you have younger children just say it helps people not have a baby before they're ready to. If they want more information and continue to ask, I'll continue to answer. If they say "Oh, okay" your good.

You can use what you see on T.V. to start many meaningful conversations. I'll find myself saying things to my girls like, "Do you know why that girl is going after that boy who we know is bad? It's because she doesn't love herself". . . and we talk about self-esteem. Or the choices we make and how they affect our life and the lives of those around us. Even just today, we were talking with our boys about Micheal Phelps and how no matter what great things you do, or accomplishments you might have, you still have consequences for your actions. And one bad choice, even if it doesn't seem like such a bad one, can affect the rest of your life. Here he is an Olympic gold medalist who is suspended from his swim team now for one bad choice, or lack of judgment.

The other day my girls and I were in the car on the way to church and between Jonas Brothers songs one of the girls asks randomly "So, why do women have to have a period EVERY month?" This must have been something she'd been thinking about since one of our previous conversations, or maybe it just popped into her head, I don't know. (I do know that I've asked myself the same question every month since I was about 12!) So, I tried to explain cycles again.

The key is to not make any question they might have seem nasty or bad. Even though it may be uncomfortable for us to talk about such things with our own children. I'd much rather they ask me than some friend at school who will give them who knows what for an answer. And try to make it just like any other conversation you have. Not something they need to be embarrassed about or make them afraid to ask.

Speaking of embarrassing . . . I remember once when my boys were too little to have had any of these conversations, we were outside talking with one of our neighbors and I mentioned my husband and I were going out on a date that night and one of my boys said very nonchalantly "You are? Are you gonna have sex?" I was surprised he had heard that word before, (it must have been from some of those teenagers I talked about before) But, I know he didn't know what it meant. I'm sure I turned all red and I think I said something sarcastic like "In your dad's dreams" to make my neighbor laugh.

Okay, so, now it's your turn. I want to hear your stories about how and when your parents had "The Talk" with you, or about conversations you've had with your kids. Even if they are embarrassing. Leave them in the comments so we can all learn from them or laugh with them! And keep talking! Even when it's uncomfortable!


Lyssa said...

LOL!!! Well, in response, I had an extremely open relationship with my mom. I could ask anything and not once did I feel weird asking. She answered calmly and casual. Same with with my brother and sister. To this day I can ask her absolutely anything. We had talks from when I was 11. I always had a million questions growing up! I hope I can continue that with my Elsie. I want her to always know I can be trusted with any questions or stories she has.
and P.S. talking about embarressing stories for parents...When I was 18 months old I came out into the living room where my mom was sitting with some friends, with a pad taped to myself and said "look I have mommy's 'di di' on" LOL. My mom just died! hope all is well with all of you!

Alisha said...

I never had the talk. I was just told not to do it till I was married. I want to have a very open relationship with my daughters, and give them information, but at the same time, you have to be a parent and point them in the right direction with their choices. Even though sometimes they go the completely different way. lol.

Anonymous said...

Yep - I remember the conversation with my mom, and although she always said I could come talk to her, it was still uncomfortable & embarrassing on some levels.

In our house, we have 2 daughters. My husband grew up with 2 boys and is a therapist - so we want to have an open forum. While they are only 3 and 18 months, we are working on establishing modesty & privacy, and using the real terms for body parts. Although my 3 year old is still trying to understand the difference between the words "peanuts" and "pen*s" - that has made for some interesting observations on her part... I don't want them to never be able to ask their dad to go to the store for pads or tampons - or to ask him questions about it. And of course, since they shadow me everywhere when they aren't sleeping, we have many conversations in the bathroom every month.

I do think it starts young and in establishing a normal routine of talking about bodily functions as God designed them. I loved your observation about the girl going after the boy who is "bad" - great way to handle that!

Anonymous said...

My mom didn't talk with me at all! She gave me a book when I was about 13. A book which didn't even come close to explaining anything. I got most of my information from friends.

I have been determined not to do the same thing to my children so we talk and talk and talk. I think I embarrass them sometimes, but I don't care. I want them to know that they can talk to me, that they can ask any question and I will answer.

Saskia said...

My mum is Dutch and was brought up very open, my dad is very British and reserved so nakedness and open talking definitely didn't go on when he grew up.

I'm so glad my mum made sure they were both open with me. I never had 'the talk' as my mum was always open with me about everything. I followed her everywhere, like Debbie's children, so I was aware of monthly cyles from a really young age.

I hope to be as open and relaxed with my children as my mum was with me.

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C. JoyBell C. said...

Hi Star! First of all... "in your dads dreams"... lol ... I can just imagine you standing there all red and trying to be cool...lol! I'm sorry, that is just too funny! :)

I agree with everything that you wrote here. I know that I'm a young mother, but I have taught my son something every day. I think that I am a better mother than a lot of mothers who are older than me. Like you said, it is much, much better for our children/child to learn about something from us at home, than to learn something from other peoples' inputs or comments at school. They should be able to go out to school armed with the truth that we supply at home. It shouldn't be the other way around.

Yes, teaching is a daily thing that happens daily and consistently through a flow of talking. It isn't a "sit down right now or I'll beat you" kind of thing to be done. Our children should grasp the fact that learning is a life-long thing. Not a "learn something now and then go out and then learn something again in ten years" kind of thing.

I don't remember "the talk", at all! I think...I think I learned from a Dr. James Dobson Focus on the Family magazine or something! lol!

stefanie said...

Yes, I agree!

My mom tried, I guess, but I don't remember getting much info from her. I think I got most of it from friends, Judy Blume, and tv.

I've also tried to do my best to answer questions as they came up, but I also tried to stay a bit ahead of them, so they could hear it from me before they heard it wrong from friends.

There is a good series of books called God's Design for Sex. Each book progresses with your child's age. I gave them books and then talked to them afterward, and told them to ask me if a new question came to them later.

My favorite conversation was with one of the girls who came to me weeks after I had told her the mechanics of baby-making (tee hee), and said, "It just sounds so GROSS!" Yeah, hold that thought for a long time...

I wonder if the questions come earlier now with the Cialis and Viagra and other commercials...

Anonymous said...

Here's my take on it. My parents NEVER spoke of sex in my home. I learned all that I know from my friends.

I now have two girls and intend to have their mother have the initial talk with them. I do believe however that it not just A talk, but a continual talk.

I believe that Moms should have the talk with girls and dads should have the talk with boys...The opposite parent should soon thereafter have a similar talk from the other perspective. I want my girls to know just how gross boys can be. I want them to know that boys will use manipulation to their advantage. I want them to know that when they behave certian ways, dress certian ways and say certian things that boys interpret, see and hear something completely different, and sometime its not favorable. They need to hear this from dad. I wish I had a woman tell me how sensitive women are to certian issues and how unpredictable they can be when "aunt flow" visits.