Who remembers their teenage self? It’s probably fair to say that almost everyone could probably remember a cringe-worthy encounter relating to the (dreaded) “talk”. You know; that you had with your parents, carer, grandparent or someone a lot older that you about how babies are made, sex, sex and contraception (in the form of the presumptive “I hope you’re using protection?” *cringe*), puberty, periods…? Though the “talk” can come in many iterations, it’s generally known to be nothing short of awkward.
But of course, it doesn’t have to be!
Here are our 6 top tips for navigating some of those important conversations with your daughter, tween or teen:
1. Remember what it was like to be a teen, but be mindful that times have changed.
How many times has your teen or tween has told you that “you’ve got no idea!” Well, we do - and we don’t. Kids seem to forget that we were teens once too, but sometimes we also fail to acknowledge that whilst we experienced much of what they have or will, times have significantly changed.
Back in our day, we relied on word-of-mouth, magazines and television as information sources – though sometimes these were restricted, and we were only told/saw/heard what we were allowed to, or what we could get our hands on.
These days, all those mediums still exist, but also add to the mix the endless pool of information that is the internet. Kids have immediate access to virtually anything, anytime. If your kids have a mobile phone, or even access to a computer – which probably all of them do, these days – they’ve probably already figured out whatever it is they want to know. But sorry folks, this doesn’t mean your off-the-hook! As many of us know, the digital age can be a minefield, with a lot of conflicting information, and so whilst it can be an excellent resource, we can’t just rely on the internet to properly educate our kids on some of life’s most significant occurrences - particularly from an emotional support perspective.
2. Pick the right time - and place!
Awkward conversations often become so when they’re sprung on you, especially in an environment you’re not comfortable with. So why not create a situation that encourages conversation to flow naturally? A great way to do this is through a side-by-side activity, which is one that occurs through a shared interest; think preparing a meal together or playing a sport you both like. Side-by-side activities are great because they are already a space where both parties feel at ease. Often, the distraction of the activity itself may mean less direct eye contact, which, in this instance, might not be such a bad thing – it may make the situation less intimidating and confronting (maybe for the both of you?!) as it might be if you were sitting at the kitchen table directly opposite each other (this formalises things and even by nature, makes the whole thing feel a little more awks).
As a side note, it’s important to not attempt the conversation in a situation where the other person may feel trapped, like in the car (how many awkward conversations did your parents spring on you in the car?! You had no choice but to sit through them!). There’s got to be a right time and place, peeps, just take some time to figure out where that might be. Don’t just do it when it feels right for you. Think about when it might be more comfortable and welcomed by the other person, too.
3. Ask open ended questions.
No-one appreciates being talked at or talked down to. By asking open-ended questions, you give the other person the sense that you’re listening and that you care about their opinion. Some examples may be things like: “Have any of your friends at school had their period yet? How do you feel about it?” or “what do you think might happen if you have unprotected sex?” Asking open ended questions may help lead them to their own conclusions.
An opening line might be something like “I’d like to have a chat about some things that I think are really important, and I’d love to get your take on them”.
Sharing builds trust - share stories about when you were growing up and the experiences you had as a tween/teen. (Remember that you probably made mistakes as a teen, too!) Ultimately, teenagers want to figure life out for themselves and so they’re going to try things whether you like it or not – but it doesn’t mean they’re not still impressionable. Talk about your own personal highs and lows, the ups and downs, and perhaps what you may have done differently had you known otherwise. Being genuinely vulnerable shows them that it’s safe for them to do the same. Try and fight the urge to patronise or criticise, but instead explain the various possible outcomes, dangers or consequences they may face as a result of the choices they make.
5. Listen, without judgement.
We have an incredible opportunity to remove any barriers by being open to our teens coming to us and openly asking questions, without the fear of judgement. Listening really helps facilitate that, as it makes a person feel respected and valued, as they should be. It’s important to not interrupt them when they’re talking; they may come to their own conclusions by simply thinking out aloud, or it may prompt them to ask you important questions that will help their thinking. Try and think of these talks as sharing discussions, rather than a lecture or a lesson. If your teen comes to you after a situation where there has ben an undesirable outcome, ask them what they may do differently the next time. Making good choices in the future sometimes involves knowing the difference between the good and the bad ones.
6. Seek professional guidance and support.
We’re certainly not doctors or professionals, but a team of passionate peeps sharing our own experiences - many of us do have daughters and tween/s of our own and we’ve also lived and breathed a tampon business for 13 years – SO there have been many an in-depth and awkward conversation had at MoxieHQ over that time! There are a heap of other resources out there, too, depending on your situation; organisations like The Butterfly Foundation (for eating disorders and body image issues), Reach Out (for youth mental health) and the Brave Foundation (for expecting and parenting teens) exist to support kids and families during challenging times. Don’t be afraid to seek help!
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