Tough Conversations with Kids :: Preparing for “The Talk”

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We have partnered with Children's of Alabama to bring you this helpful and encouraging information!

Nothing strikes quite as much fear in the hearts of parents as the thought of having “the talk” with their child.

Amidst the nausea and panic that immediately set in, there are the questions: When do you have it? What do you say? How do you say it? What if you say the wrong thing? What if they ask a question you don’t know the answer to? Don’t they cover this in school?

These are the questions I already have . . . and my eldest is just barely out of diapers.

So here’s the bad news . . .

Talk about sex with kidsIf you’re hoping your child’s school will take this off your to-do list . . . don’t.

In Alabama, schools are not required to teach sex education. The only requirement is that schools teach children about HIV/AIDS in grades 5-12.

While a school may offer additional sex education if it chooses, the information can often be inconsistent and incomplete. And let’s face it, neither of those are things you want when it comes to puberty and sex education.

Now for the good news . . .

Early, candid conversations with your child about tough topics like this help set your child and family up for success for years to come.

Talking about puberty and sex help boost your child’s self-confidence, body awareness, ability to deal with change, and likelihood of making healthier choices down the road. In addition, these tough conversations open up and strengthen your family’s lines of communication. Who wouldn’t want that?

How do I get started talking to my child about his/her body and sex?

Talk about sex with kids - sex education can be relationship-buildingDr. Stephenie Wallace from Children’s of Alabama is here to help get us started. Dr. Wallace is a mom and part of the Adolescent Health Center team at Children’s. She is also a certified Girlologist.

Girlology & Guyology is a national program pioneered by two physicians and moms with the mission of helping parents have age-appropriate, medically accurate, and cringe-free conversations about puberty and sexuality.

Here are some tips on jumpstarting the conversation from Children’s resident Girlologist, Dr. Wallace:

Realize that you are your child’s best teacher.

There is a lot of incorrect information out there. Chances are that your child has already heard about sex on the school bus or the playground. That is why you having “the talk” with your child is so important.

You are your child’s most trusted resource for accurate information. Despite the initial huffing and puffing, your child needs you to add clarity to those school bus conversations. This also presents a great opportunity to share your family’s values and beliefs regarding sexual behavior.

Understand that it may be uncomfortable at first, and that’s OK.

The good news is that the initial discomfort will likely dissipate for both you and your child. However, if you can tell your child continues to be uncomfortable, don’t feel like you have to go through everything at once. If it is easier, use the first conversation to set the stage. Then follow up later with additional conversations as needed.  

Prepare your child for the changes ahead.

Every child develops at a different pace. Our responsibility as parents is to make sure our child is prepared for those changes. The best time to talk to your child, if you haven’t done so already, is when you start to notice your child’s body maturing. Typically, this happens around late elementary school. Change can be scary. Talk openly about the changes ahead – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take away the mystery and let them know what they can expect.

Listen.

“The talk” is a great opportunity for you to listen to the heart of your child. Let your child know that this is a safe place to talk and ask questions. Take the time to acknowledge his or her feelings and concerns.

“The talk” is more of an ongoing conversation.

The good thing about opening up the line of communication is that your child will likely come back with more questions as he or she is faced with different situations. Let your child know that you are there for any questions or concerns that come up. In addition, don’t be afraid to use teachable moments such as news headlines or comments you overhear to continue the conversation with your child.

It is OK if you don’t have all the answers.

Questions are bound to come up. When they do, answer the best you can. It is OK if you don’t have the answer right then. Let your child know that you will do some research and get back to them. Then follow up.

While no parent likely looks forward to having “the talk” with his or her child, the benefits of early, open, and honest communication with your child regarding body awareness and sex will serve your family far beyond any initial discomfort you may feel.

Have you had “the talk” with your child? What did you find helpful?

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Jacklyn grew up in Pittsburgh, PA before moving to Atlanta, GA after her freshman year in high school. Jacklyn attended Belmont University in Nashville, TN where she majored in journalism and met her husband Ben. After college Jacklyn worked as a children's book publicist and worked on books by authors like Jack Hanna, Tim McGraw, George Foreman, Max Lucado, and Margaret Wise Brown. After three years as a publicist, Jacklyn decided to attend law school. Jacklyn earned her JD from the University of Cincinnati and practiced Labor and Employment law at a firm in Cincinnati, OH. While at the firm, Ben attended medical school and they had their two boys - Jackson Wilder (2 1/2) and Leo (8 months). After medical school Ben accepted a residency position at UAB so the McGlothlins headed to Birmingham. The McGlothlins now live in Bluff Park and can’t imagine a better place to raise their boys. While studying to take the Alabama Bar, Jacklyn is home with the boys in her new role as a “pediatric engineer” as her mom calls it. The jury is still out on who her toughest clients are - the two boys or some of her former firm clients.