Let's Talk Month (cont'd)
Here are ten tips to help parents share information with their children that’s not only accurate, but also in sync with their personal values and moral principles:
1. Start Early - Kids are hearing about and forced to cope with tough issues at increasingly early ages, often before they are ready to understand all aspects of these complicated ideas. Additionally, medical research and public health data tells us that when children want information, advice and guidance, they turn to their parents first. We need to take advantage of this "window of opportunity" with children and talk with them earlier and more often, particularly about tough issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, alcohol and drugs.
2. Initiate Conversation with Your Child - While we want our children to feel comfortable enough to come to us with any questions and concerns -- and thus give us the opportunity to begin conversations -- this doesn't always occur. That's why it's perfectly okay -- at times even necessary -- to begin the discussions ourselves. Just one or two questions could help start a valuable discussion that comes from everyday circumstances and events.
3. Even About Sensitive Subjects - If you feel uncomfortable talking about such sensitive subjects -- particularly sex and relationships -- with your child, you're not alone. Many parents feel awkward and uneasy, especially if they are anxious about the subject. But, for your kid's sake, try to overcome your nervousness and bring up the issue with your child. After all, our children are hearing about it both through the media and on the playground, and that information may not include the values that we want our kids to have.
4. Create an Open Environment - Children want their parents to discuss difficult subjects with them. However, our kids will look to us for answers only if they feel we will be open to their questions. It's up to us to create the kind of atmosphere in which our children can ask any questions -- on any subject -- freely and without fear. Be encouraging, supportive and positive.
5. Communicate Your Values - As a parent, you have a wonderful opportunity to be the first person to talk with your child about tough issues like drugs and violence before anyone else can confuse him with "just-the-facts" explanations that lack the sense of values and moral principles you want to instill. Likewise, when talking with your child about sex, remember to communicate your values. Remember: research shows that children want and need moral guidance from their moms and dads; so don't hesitate to make your beliefs clear.
6. Listen to Your Child - It's important to find time to give kids our undivided attention. Listening carefully to our children builds self-esteem by letting our youngsters know that they're important to us and can lead to valuable discussions about a wide variety of sensitive issues. Listening carefully also helps better understand what our children really want to know as well as what they already understand. Let’s listen to our children and take their feelings into account.
7. Be Honest - Whatever your children's age, they deserve honest answers and explanations. It's what strengthens our children's ability to trust. If we don't provide straightforward answers, kids can possibly find fantasy explanations, which can be more frightening than any real, honest response we can offer.
8. Be Patient - Sometimes it can feel like forever before a youngster gets his/her story out. As adults, we're tempted to finish the child's sentence, filling in words and phrases in an effort to hear the point sooner. Try to resist this impulse. By listening patiently, we allow our children to think at their own pace and we are letting them know that they are worthy of our time.
9. Use Everyday Opportunities to Talk - It's important to try to talk with your kids about tough issues often, but there isn't always time in the day to sit down for a long talk. If we use "talk opportunities," moments that arise in everyday life, as occasions for discussion, our children will be a lot less likely to tune us out. For young children, bath time is an excellent time to talk about all subjects and connect with our children. For older children, a good time to talk can be in the car (without ear buds or music). Even when watching a television show, discuss relationships being portrayed and the consequences (both positive and negative) of the actions.
10. Talk Again and Again - Since it works best for most children to take in small bits of information at any one time, they won't learn all they need to know about a particular topic from a single discussion.
“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”
~ C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the
For additional information, please contact:
Sullivan County Regional Health Department