As a parent, I’ve been secretly dreading having “the big conversation” with my kids. I know they’re necessary, but what a load of responsibility! This big conversation would have to be perfect! And then I heard something a few weeks ago that changed my entire perspective.
It’s not one conversation, but many, that will really make the difference. And I realized I’d already been doing this all along. I encourage you to consider these organized strategies that have worked for me:
Talk about everything.
My boys were getting ready for school one day and my oldest son mentioned a conversation he’d heard that sounded sketchy. It could have gone many ways, but I asked him, “Is this about drugs?”, of course it wasn’t – it wasn’t even close – but we had a very informative conversation about what are drugs, why they’re not good for anyone and the difference between illegal drugs and medicine.
Then we had a conversation about the most influential people of this century (school homework) and how to add items to my online grocery shopping list. To them, our drugs conversation was one of many normal conversations. But to me, I know it’s valuable information that they need to know sooner than later, and I know this isn’t the end of this, or many other, conversations.
I encourage you to blend the big topics in with the daily topics. You’ll see it all becomes part of the conversation.
Ask good questions and really listen to the answer.
I’ve often found surprises when I clean out my kids backpacks, my oldest carries 32 rocks around in his backpack and doesn’t want me to remove them. And recently, I found that he also had deodorant in his bag. I didn’t know it was in there, so I asked him about it. It turns out he got it from the school nurse and needed a little more information.
Couple that with my discovery that my youngest son has been spraying bathroom spray on himself, and I knew it was time for another (small, but important conversation). I asked quite a few questions to help me understand what was happening and I was glad I listened to his answers.
They giggled like little kids when I shared them we could get them items to help them “smell like a man” and were so excited. So my husband and I, on a recent shopping trip, picked up travel size sprays, deodorants, shower gels and shampoos for each of them.
They’ve both taken the items and stored them in special places – and are using each regularly. Now we just need to talk about normal usage levels of body spray . . .
Our kids are growing up and make decisions with the information that they know. We are trusted to expand their knowledge base and help them make the best decisions. I encourage you to turn your new discoveries with your kids into a chance to guide them in a key area.
Use your (people) resources well.
My boys (10 and 7 at the time) had to go in for an annual check-up recently with their pediatrician, which led to some new experiences for them – including the turn-your-head-and-cough moment. We’d been talking the last few weeks about how their body is their own and how others should respect and treat their body, including keeping their privates private. And I asked our pediatrician a few questions that helped her know what we’d been discussing. Of course, she reinforced our previous conversations and helped add a bit of medical advice to strengthen my statements. Both of the boys said they’d learned something new with the visit to her office and I was glad I brought it up to her to continue that conversation.
Your kids look to you the most for advice, action and understanding the world around them. And it’s often helpful for you to have others to help reinforce safe and positive behavior. I encourage you to use your resources well and take advantage of each learning opportunity.
If you’re dreading the “big conversation” with your kids, don’t. Sure, the topics may be heavy, but the conversations are easy – because it’s not one conversation, it’s many – thousands – over the course of their life – that will really make the difference. I encourage you to talk to them today about one of the important topics, and to them, all the topics are important. I’ve learned with my management strengths, that regular interaction and follow-up make a difference for employees. And the same is true for parenting my kids, the more I’m involved, the better chance they have to be wise and healthy teens and adults. I promise it’s easier the sooner, and the smaller you start. So start today.