Kids’ questions are more varied and diverse than only being about “s-e-x.” And as I’ve said many times before, the earlier you start talking with your child, the easier it’s going to be and the more willing your child will be to come to you with their questions and concerns. However, it is never too late to initiate open, honest conversation with an older child as well. It all might feel dicey, but not talking is definitely the bigger risk.
Here are five tips for how you can handle their questions gracefully:
1. Be prepared. Take a class; read a book; talk with your friends.
The more informed you are, the better prepared and more confident you’ll feel initiating conversations or answering questions your child might ask. Look at our website for a list of resources, like good books. We also offer in-person classes, digital classes and Facebook live chats where we answer questions in real time.
2. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Sounds good, but it may not be that easy, right? The more informed and educated you are, the easier it will be for you to fake feeling confident and cool when you talk about uncomfortable topics with your kids. Until you build that confidence up, though, play the part of the laid back parent! Start slow and broach simple topics such as, “Can you tell me the difference between boys and girls?” or “Let me share some of my puberty experiences.” Or maybe, “Can you explain puberty to me?”
3. Tell the truth, or they’ll never ask you anything again.
Kids are very smart, and they know when you’re not telling the truth. Oftentimes we tell small lies because we’re afraid our children can’t handle the truth, when the truth is that the more truthful with your child you are, the more they’ll be willing to share things with you. Truly!
You’d be surprised how well a child can handle anything you tell them if it’s authentic. If you really aren’t prepared for certain conversations then you can say: “I don’t feel comfortable discussing this topic with you at your age. When you’re a little bit older, let’s revisit this conversation again.”
Or, if it’s a question you might not have the full answer for, then say that you and your child can find the answer together.
In this instance, don’t fake it!
4. Whatever truthful thing you say won’t damage them for the rest of their lives.
Children have immature children’s brains, not the fully developed brains of adults. When dealing with children, it is important to remember this and take it into consideration. The question most parents are afraid of is, “Where do babies come from?”
So what if you really did give them a “children’s version” of sex? If you’re talking to a five-year-old, they will only take in what they can conceptualize and bracket the rest for the future. If you have a similar conversation with a tween, they might say “Yuck” or “Really!?” but no damage will be done.
But, if you don’t have proactive, open conversations before they access pornography or hear something from a friend) or the media or the internet), then the damage will be much more problematic, now and in the future.
5. Initiate: Find a choice moment and start a conversation.
“OMG you actually want me to start the conversation!? Can’t I wait until they come to me!?” If you’re waiting for them to come to you, and you haven’t been having conversations with your child all along, in my experience, they’ll either go to their peers or the internet.
Start with the basics about anatomy and feelings. Then move on to topics such as male and female differences. Do they know actually what the term “puberty” means and what it entails? Ask them what they might be hearing on the playground. For example: “When I was your age, I heard all kinds of funny stuff around my peers about puberty and ‘guy’ stuff. What have you heard?”
They might not answer right away, so just give them a couple of minutes, and in most cases they’ll start to open up. Some helpful hints if you get your child to talk: Don’t judge, lecture, jump to conclusions or interrupt. Be a willing listener and don’t forget to interject some humor as well. In reality, some of this stuff is pretty funny.
Be on the lookout for five more tips. In the meantime, mull over what I’ve written, pick a couple and practice. Your bravery will definitely pay off.
Good luck, and let us know how it’s going!
If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also available for private coaching sessions, if you need additional assistance.