Conversations are an important element of any relationship, especially parent-child relationships. It allows you to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, it also helps you to effectively share what your needs are. Most importantly, it helps you to be connected with your child. As important as having conversations are, some conversations are indeed difficult to have.
Before we get into these conversations and provide helpful insights, let me first state that your effort in having these conversations might not work if you aren't willing to be as honest, plain, and open as much as possible. Over time, we've tagged these conversations "awkward" as you'll come to find, and indeed it can be without the right tools to help, but it is even worse if you aren't being honest in the first place. So, my advice, no sugarcoating, and no double standard.
Second, it is important to note that there are no perfect answers to these conversations. No, there is no perfect way of having these conversations, which is why- my second advice- keep it real. Use actual clear words to express what you want to say. Give real examples such as something similar that happened to you. As I have found, your children will love, accept and respect you when you are keeping it real with them.
Parents' biggest misconception around these kinds of conversations is that keeping it away or covering it up will protect the child. No, your child will find that information elsewhere and will make their choices anyway, what better way if it is coming from you.
Difficult conversation 1: Talking to your child about sex
As the world gets more digitally informed, talking about sex is no longer awkward among teenagers themselves and we've found that parents are more likely to feel awkward over having this conversation than the child is.
A lot of the time, this awkwardness is born out of a parent not knowing what to say, how to say it, or being afraid the child will ask questions that are too personal or intense to be answered. That is why it is vital to be prepared before having this conversation. Read books that will prepare you to give answers wisely yet honestly, there are also many resources you'll find on the internet.
When dealing with conversations around sex, it is important to start early. This can be your sex education plan for your child, and as the child grows, your conversation evolves and becomes more advanced. It is important that your child understand their body parts, sexual and reproductive health. Also, let your child know what sex is as well as the emotional implication and consequences of unprotected sex.
Answer their questions no matter how it sounds to you. Have frequent ongoing conversations, this is vital to understand the state of their mind regarding what you are talking about.
- Read a book on love, sex, and relationship together and discuss lessons learned. Ensure your child is saying what his thoughts are and not you trying to infuse your opinions on him/her.
- Have an after-dinner conversation with your child. To make it a more interesting time, have your child invite his/her friends over.
Difficult conversation 2: Talking about drug and substance use
One of the greatest encouragers of drug and substance use among teenagers is peer pressure, therefore, our first rule naturally would be, as a parent, to get to know your child's friends. Find out who his peers are, who his best friend is, what their values are, and the likes. You'll likely get insights into these things when you invite them over to your house and engage them in a conversation.
Asides from this, empower your child with the right information. You are your child's life coach, so teach them how to handle peer pressures when it does come because it will surely come. Let your child understand the implication of drug and substance use, give real-life examples. Thankfully, you won't have trouble finding examples, there are many such sad cases of drug use on the internet that have adversely affected our young people, sometimes even leading to death.
Let your child know you have high hopes and expectations of them, but make sure you have trained them to be individuals who can rise up to meet high expectations.
Difficult conversation 3: Talking about money
Now your child is a teenager and he receives his pocket money, maybe some extra allowances on the side for different purposes. Now, let's have conversations about spending money. I find that many young people don't want to be told how to spend 'their' money, especially if they are making this money themselves somehow, either through internships, part-time jobs, or allowances.
Because having money gives a false sense of power, young people often go on a reckless spending spree or into bad investments and unfortunately don't want anyone to tell them otherwise.
- Talk value not figure. Help your child focus on what he can achieve with money and not how much money he can gain.
- Talk often and share your own money experiences both positive and negative so that they have lessons from both experiences.