There are few conversations in the life of a parent that can induce more feelings of anxiety than sitting your tween down for the Big Talk.
Children these days are developing younger than ever, and the growing popularity of social media in this age group makes it increasingly important to sit your child down and explain the ins and outs of growing up before they hear it from less reliable resources. Body image issues can be a major struggle with tween girls and boys, and arming your child with information can make all the difference in their confidence as they move through the awkwardness of puberty.
Talking about puberty (and yes, sex) can be uncomfortable for both you and your blossoming tween, but it doesn’t have to be! Despite the fact preteens may be more interested in tuning into their iPods instead of their parents, there are steps you can take to minimize the discomfort and create a bonding moment for both of you. Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve found that can make a world of difference when approaching the big Talk.
- First – Breathe!
Take a few deep breaths – use a paper bag if you have to! If you approach the puberty talk with your tween from a place of anxiety, they will instantly pick up on it. Remember, the goal here is to make them feel confident and informed about their changing bodies, not ashamed of them. By normalizing the conversation and opening up communication with your tween now, you are setting the stage for trust and openness down the road.
- Prepare Yourself to Prepare your Tween
For those of you worried about where to even begin – arm yourself with resources! There are countless books, online forums, blogs, and parent groups that can be a wealth of information for you as the parent, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of them! You will feel much more confident starting the conversation if you feel like you have a plan going in.
- Look for the Right Moment
If your tween is having a particularly bad day (or week), it probably isn’t the best time to approach this subject even if you feel prepared and ready to go. You want your child to really hear what you are saying, and if they start out the conversation feeling frustrated or angry a lot less will be accomplished. When they’re ready for the talk, make sure it is done in a time and place that you can focus solely on them.
- Don’t Lecture – Listen!
There is no quicker way to shut down a conversation with your tween than to make them feel lectured. Open the conversation up by asking your child what they already know, you might be surprised! When delving into the conversation, focus on the facts but approach it in a compassionate way. If you notice your tween feeling uncomfortable, take a break and ask them how they feel. Different children are ready for information at different times, and it is ok to go at their pace.
- Keep Communication Open
Once you’ve had the talk, the doors are now open for a lifelong conversation as your child grows and matures. Touch base regularly with them and see how they are doing. Take advantage of opportune moments to talk, such as when riding in the car. If they are uncomfortable coming to you with “embarrassing” questions, think out of the box for communication! One tip I’ve found that works very well is setting up a mailbox or message system in your home where your tween can leave you written questions and you can respond by sending them a note back.
Every parent will come to that pivotal moment where it’s time for the big Talk, and that moment can be the gateway for a lifelong path of communication. Even if your tween doesn’t have much to say in your initial conversation – don’t worry! Be open, breathe, and remember that no matter how uncomfortable it may be, you are building a foundation for confidence and self-love by giving them the information they need to better understand their changing bodies.