Thursday, December 26, 2013
Sexuality education means talking about all the factors that feed into children and young people’s sexual growth and development. Topics include bodies, privacy, sexual decisions, respectful behaviours and language, and the ‘place’ of sex in people’s lives.
Research suggests that parents generally aren’t very confident about discussing sexual issues with their children. Along the way, a lot of young people miss out on valuable information. Common findings from the research include:
· Fathers tend to avoid taking part in sex education discussions.
· When fathers do talk to their children about sex, they limit the conversation to less intimate issues.
· Mothers are more likely to talk about intimate, emotional and psychological aspects of sex than fathers.
· Mothers talk more about sex to their daughters than their sons.
· Parents tend to leave boys in the dark about female sexual issues such as menstruation.
· Parents may assume the school system will take care of their child’s sex education, and so choose to say nothing.
· Parents may postpone talks about sex until they see evidence of the child having a relationship; for example, if their child starts dating or comes home with a love bite on their neck. These talks can turn into arguments because it can become a discipline issue rather than an opportunity to provide advice and guidance.
· Parents tend to show embarrassed or awkward body language when talking to their child about sex: for example, avoiding eye contact.
· Parents confine their talks to the mechanics and biology of sex, and tend to omit the more difficult or embarrassing topics such as masturbation, homosexuality and orgasms.
Younger children may be curious and interested when parents talk about sexual issues. Older children, particularly teenagers, tend to be a less willing audience. Research findings include:
· An older child may feel like they know it all and that their parents couldn’t possibly teach them anything.
· An older child can be dismissive when their parents discuss sex with them, which shakes parental confidence.
· The child can feel as embarrassed and awkward as their parents, and may prefer not to talk about sex with them at all.
· If parents don’t ever broach the subject of sex, the child tends to assume the parents don’t want to talk about it - so the child never bothers to ask.
Families that talk openly about sexual issues share certain traits, which include:
· The parents are good listeners.
· The parents provide truthful answers to the child’s questions.
· The child is allowed to have opinions about sexual issues and voice them without fear of getting yelled at or punished.
· The parents don’t insist that the child stick to strict and inflexible standards of behaviour.
· The child feels listened to, understood and supported by their parents.
· Learn as much as you can – issues your older child or teenager is keen to hear you talk about include puberty, menstruation, reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality and premarital sex. The more you know, the less you’ll stumble.
· Have back-up information – get age-appropriate books, articles and videos to help you.
· Practice – try out what you plan to say (and how) on your partner and friends. Try the words out so you feel comfortable with them.
· Make it a regular topic – think of sex education as an ongoing process. Smaller, frequent conversations are better than a big, one-off talk.
· Plan ahead – don’t wait for your child to bring the subject up; they may figure you’re unapproachable and not ask you. Plan to start the conversations about sex yourself.
· Aim for a friendly chat – try to see the talks as two-way discussions, not lectures. Plan to ask what your child thinks and feels. Aim to get a lively discussion going.
· Keep it casual – don’t make talking about sex a special, solemn occasion. Most parents and children find it easier to discuss sex if they’re occupied doing everyday tasks such as cooking, washing the car or walking the dog.
· Try to maintain eye contact – avoiding eye contact can suggest embarrassment or discomfort. If your child gets this message from you, they will learn that talking about sexual issues is taboo. Of course, you won’t have to worry about this so much if you’re both busy washing the dishes, for example.
· Use the cues around you – conversation starters could include romantic scenes in movies on television or something that has happened to a person you know. You could begin by asking open-ended questions, such as ‘What would you do if you found yourself in that situation?’ A general conversation based around a hypothetical situation is an easy starting point, and gives both you and your child a chance to express your thoughts and beliefs.
· Use your own experience – if you feel comfortable, illustrate particular points with stories from your own experience.
· Explain your values – older children and teenagers are interested in hearing about parental values and beliefs. Share them, but don’t expect your child to feel the same way.
Certain reactions are likely to stop the conversation or turn it into an argument. Things to avoid include:
· Don’t demand that your child share your beliefs and values.
· Don’t argue that their opinions are wrong.
· Don’t criticise, react in horror or get angry.
· Don’t interrupt them when they’re talking.
· Don’t stop listening to them.
· Don’t assume they want your guidance. If you feel like giving them advice, first tell them why.
· Don’t be stern and unapproachable; for example, avoid threatening statements like ‘If you get yourself pregnant, don’t bother coming home’.
· Don’t assume your child is sexually active or ‘in trouble’ if they ask you a question about sex. A hysterical response will probably guarantee your child may never risk asking you anything about sex again.
Embarrassment can stop the conversation. Suggestions include:
· If you feel shy or embarrassed, say so and laugh about it. Perhaps you could have a chat about why sexual issues are so difficult to discuss. This can help ease the tension.
· If you are uncomfortable with talking about your own sexual experiences, say so honestly. Explain that people need their privacy.
· If you can’t bring yourself to talk about something, tell your child that you’ll find other ways to get the information to them. For example, you could get books, articles or videos on the subject.
· If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Ideally, you and your child could research the answer together.
Sometimes, talking about sex seems impossible. The parent may be too embarrassed or the child may refuse to listen. Suggestions include:
· Keep at it, from time to time. Try different approaches.
· Talking over the phone may be easier.
· Find out what sort of sex education topics are covered in school classes. Your child may be more inclined to talk to you about sex if you bring up topics that haven’t been already covered.
· Get age-appropriate sex education materials, such as books and videos, and leave them in your child’s bedroom. Check out psychologist.org.in for some great book suggestions.
· Perhaps your child is interested in talking about sex, but not with you. Consider asking a trusted relative or friend to talk to your child instead.
· Your Psychologist
· Your child’s school
· Bookshops and libraries
· Psychological Help-Line India (+91) 8090- 860000 or visit Psychologist.org.in
· Issues your older child or teenager is keen to hear you talk about include puberty, menstruation, reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality and premarital sex.
· Sex education is an ongoing process – short and frequent conversations are better than the big, one-off talk.
· Parents and children find it easier to discuss sex if they’re preoccupied with another task, such as washing the car or walking the dog
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
When you’re raising a teenager, your house can feel like a war-zone that’s scattered with potential land mines masquerading as casual questions. Every interaction can feel like it has the potential to blow up in your respective faces, leaving parents wondering what the safest course of action is in terms of avoiding an argument. During the tumultuous teenage years, these are 10 of the most reliable ways to avoid fighting with your child.
- Establish Rational Boundaries – During adolescence, your teen is revisiting the same mindset of early toddler hood that leaves her looking for ways to test boundaries as a means of asserting her independence from you. Making sure that she knows some boundaries cannot be challenged lays a foundation for calm, rational interaction. Just be sure before you make those rules that you understand your teen’s need for a reasonable amount of independence, and avoid overly harsh authoritarian rules that leave no room for such expression.
- Shift Your Perspective – As an adult parent of a teenager, it can be difficult to remember your own battles during the tender years leading up to adulthood. Before flying off of the proverbial handle, try to remember how you felt as a teen, so that you can see things from your own teenager’s perspective.
- Refuse to Escalate the Situation – When you’re standing face to face with a raging, screaming teen that pays no heed to the feelings of anyone around her as she expresses her frustration, it’s easy to fall into the trap of shouting right back at her. By maintaining your composure and refusing to let the situation escalate into a full-on altercation, you’re effectively maintaining control of the confrontation without adding fuel to the fire.
- Practice Good Listening Skills – Sometimes a teen feels as if he’s not being truly heard and in response will lash out with anger, when all he really wants is to know that his viewpoints and opinions are being listened to. Taking the time to ask your child how he feels and actually listening to the answer he gives can diffuse many arguments before they start.
- Create a “No Judgment” Zone for Tricky Discussions – Teenagers face a variety of difficult choices and situations, and those who feel as if they have nowhere to turn for advice due to a fear of parental judgment or punishment can internalize that stress, leading to nasty arguments borne of frustration. Making sure that your child knows she can safely approach you with difficult questions can eliminate that frustration, making for a more peaceful environment within your home.
- Know When to Compromise – As a parent, it’s often difficult to admit when you’re being unreasonable and concede an argument, or at least to make compromises when you’ve reached an impasse. Mastering the art of a sane compromise with your teen, however, is the key to keeping a tense discussion from escalating.
- Understand When to Walk Away – When you can’t hold on to your temper, it’s okay to walk away. If you ascribe to a philosophy of walking away to let your temper cool, though, it’s essential that you afford your teenager the same respect. Resist the temptation to follow her in order to continue a diatribe; it’ll only lead to an even nastier confrontation.
- Actively Avoid Triggers – There are some subjects that bring out a passionate reaction in everyone, and those triggers differ from one person to the next. Your teenager is no different, and you know the things that will upset her before you discuss them. Avoid the subjects you know will upset your child, especially if there’s no real reason for discussing them.
- Refuse to Reward the Silent Treatment – The silent treatment is infuriating for anyone, but it’s important that you not reward that behavior from your teen. Attempting to draw him out with false cheerfulness or prodding him to talk will only blow up in your face, so let him stew without interference for a while.
- Avoid Drawing Comparisons – Telling your teenager that you never acted the way he does, or illustrating just how much more tolerant of a parent you are because you don’t punish him the way you would have been punished for behaving in such a manner serves absolutely no productive purpose. Remember that your teen is trying to establish himself as a separate entity from you; drawing comparisons, even when you’re just looking for common ground, can ultimately be counterproductive.
Making a concerted effort to foster an open, honest relationship with your teen can make it easier to avoid the worst arguments, but the occasional disagreement is pretty much par for the course. Rather than dwelling on an argument after it happens, try to think about how you could have handled it differently so that you can apply that knowledge the next time negotiations become tense