by Megan Stubbs
School is approaching quickly, and a new year is beginning; there is no better time to brush up on important parenting topics and to start an open dialogue with your child. Regardless of their age, creating a conversation and being engaged with your child is critical. Here are some important topics that parents should include in a back-to-school conversation.
Teaching this is as important for your young toddlers as it is to your teens. Consent is the permission for something to happen or someone to do something. Teaching your child to seek permission first lets the receiver be the one in control. If the receiver says no, that is perfectly ok, and the “no” needs to be honored. It is also important to note that a lack of a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean a “yes.”
As teens get older, things such as towel snapping in locker rooms and any forms of touching can run rampant through hallways. It is important to address these issues because its not simply “boys being boys,” it is harassment. Flip the scenario with your child and ask them how they would feel if someone did that to them. Even if your child isn’t participating in the incident, but sees it, teaching them to speak up on behalf of the victim is just as important.
Puberty can be a tough time for your child. The body that they once knew is now becoming unfamiliar. Their voices are changing. They’re developing breasts. Their genitals are growing and getting covered in pubic hair. They’re menstruating. To add to it, they are dealing with an onslaught of hormones that can cause them to experience a whole host of different reactions. There is no time more important for you to be building up your child’s self-esteem than now.
According to a national report done by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, 70 percent of girls feel bad and do not like the way they look. That number is crushing. Helping your child to realize how amazing they are starts with you. Compliment them on their body and their brain. So often we as a society have perpetuated the stereotype that girls are pretty, dainty and cute, and boys are tough, strong and smart. It’s time to blur the binary. Having your child realize that not having to look a certain way can completely shift their confidence. Making sure they know that others value them and that they are beautiful is an important first step.
In my perfect world, there would not be “the talk” (you know, the one about S-E-X) only once, but instead, a long conversation spanning the entire life of your child. Whether you have yet to begin this conversation with your child or are continually engaging in it, now is a great time to cover some important topics.
Gatherings or parties in middle or high school can put pressure on your child to experiment with drugs or alcohol. While it is clear that the message from you should be don’t do them, it is important that you are realistic with your child and make sure that they have a course of action in case things do happen. Ask them questions to help stimulate thinking critically prior to sticky situations arising, such as:
- If you get caught, how will this affect your schooling/athletics?
- If your driver has had too much to drink and you’ve been drinking too, how will you get home? (It is important to note that your child should know that they can always call you for a safe ride and to pick them up from any situation. The risk of them unsafely getting home is much higher than the repercussions of misbehavior).
- What do you know about (insert drug)? How will you know if you’ve done too much?
- Can someone who is drunk or high consent to being touched by you or anyone else?
Asking questions like these can help your child start thinking about the consequences of doing drugs or alcohol without having to be in the situation first. Hopefully with this knowledge they will make informed, smart decisions.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the majority of young people have had sex for the first time by the age of 17. It is imperative that we equip our children with accurate, honest information surrounding sex, and that is beyond puberty, pregnancy, and STD/STIs. Normalizing the conversation surrounding sex will put them at ease and hopefully make them more comfortable coming to you with their questions. Now is a great time to instill your morals, values and wishes for them, but don’t limit their access to information. Teens are hungry for knowledge surrounding feelings, assault, contraception, consent, different activities and more. You may blush. You may cringe. You may want to scream in a pillow, but please don’t shoo them away or tell them no. They’ll find a way to learn about it with or without you, so why not have it come from someone who loves and cares about them.
Cheers to a safe, healthy year. You can do it. I believe in you!
Dr. Megan Stubbs is a Sexologist, the job you never saw on career day. For insightful tips or a good laugh, find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SexologistMegan.com