You know that having conversations with your child is an essential aspect of parenting. It is especially important to talk about sensitive issues that you are yourself not comfortable with, or those you feel squeamish about. Here are some pointers to help you along the way.
The importance of open conversations at home
Our children may seem more worldly wise and knowledgeable that we were at their age. We may also feel that there is a lot of information available at their fingertips – why then, should we bring up topics
that make us blush and tongue-tied, or those that are dark and fearful, that we want to shield our child’s mind from? We must bring these themes of conversation within our homes because there is as much
misinformation (not just on the Internet, but from peers, older children and other adults) as there is factual, reliable data. Unless we have conversations with our children, we will not be able to set right
any misconceptions or phobias, address unanswered questions and reinforce certain values important to the family. While schools do their part in dispensing information, the formal setting of a class (and fear of ridicule by peers) may discourage a child from opening up and sharing doubts or misgivings, so such
conversations must happen at home. Furthermore, open conversations at home foster an atmosphere of sharing; your child is more likely to turn to you in a crisis or a confusing situation, if you have encouraged questions all along.
Handling tricky questions and sticky situations – some tips
Do not use distraction or avoidance tactics; changing the topic of conversation when your child asks an
‘embarrassing’ question, switching channels if an advertisement for a feminine hygiene product comes on, for example. Such tactics lead the child to believe that some topics are ‘secret’ or ‘shameful’.
Start early, use day-to-day situations to give your child age appropriate information that she can assimilate. This is better than doing a ‘session’ with her when she is older. For example, when your three year- old spots a dead ant and remarks that it is not moving, you could say, “It is dead. It will not move or eat or bite anymore.” This introduces the child to the concept of death and will help her get a better handle of it when it strikes a person close or known to the family.
Share information that is age appropriate, situation appropriate and child appropriate. After all, you do know your child the best.
You need not answer all questions immediately – when you do not have ready answers, you can say, “I would like to think of the right words to explain this to you.” You may also need to use this explanation when you want to avoid explaining something in another, younger child’s presence.