We get it. having “the talk” with your child sounds about as awkward as trying to explain to someone how a river caught on fire. However, Dr. Sarah Pasqualone of Lake Health Women’s Health Specialists, says it’s imperative to discuss puberty changes and sexual activity with your child way before you may even feel ready. “Kids see a lot and hear a lot way before you think they are ready to hear things,” says Pasqualone. “It’s not necessarily whether the child is ready, so sometimes the parents have to make the effort.” Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any, the tips and advice below can help you prepare to discuss the birds and the bees.
- Has your child begun to show signs of puberty such as hair growth, body odor or for girls, are breasts starting to develop?
- Does your child grow uncomfortable when discussing
unfamiliar concepts regarding body changes?
- Has your child confessed romantic interest in another
person (even if it’s just a silly crush)?
- Has your child received any outside info (health classes, peers at school or Internet) regarding puberty or sex?
- Has your child shown subtle signs that suggest an awareness of bodily changes (uncomfortable with being naked around a parent, shyness when parents bring the subject up, etc.)?
Often, parents wait until their child is fully undergoing bodily changes (odor, hair growth, acne, etc.) before discussing puberty. But, Pasqualone says, it can be confusing and nerve-wracking for a child to see their body develop. “You need to be talking with them before that to make them aware of some of the changes,” she says. “So they’re not frightened by it.”
Sure, the child may not be the only one who feels uncomfortable during these talks. However, it’s important for parents to not let their discomfort show, as it can discourage the child from opening up. “If the parents aren’t acting like they’re feeling comfortable, that’s going to make the children feel uncomfortable, and they may not come to them when they need to,” she says.
Be an open book
Opening that channel of communication between you and your child needs to be a persistent effort. The child may feel shy or unsure what to ask at first, but opening that door for future questions affirms that your kid can come to you. “A lot of kids feel that they can’t talk to their parents,” she says. “You don’t want to shut that door completely.”