If your child is exposed to the newspaper and television, be prepared to explain terms that may be beyond her age too – such as rape or suicide – choose simple words and phrases but do not refuse to
answer or dismiss the child. You may say, “I feel the explanations may be distressing or disturbing to you, so can we do this when you are older?”
With older children, use newspaper reports to introduce topics the children have not brought up themselves. For example, report of a famous movie star’s suicide can be used to bring up a discussion on depression, psychiatric treatment etc. Or a rock star’s death due to drug overdose can be cited to talk about the dangers of substance abuse.
An age-wise reckoner
Personal safety – two years onwards
Death – five years or earlier if circumstances demand
Bodily changes to be expected in puberty and adolescence – eight years
Pregnancy and birth control – 10 years or at puberty
Terrorism, religious fanaticism – 12 years
Substance abuse, alcohol addiction, depression, suicide – 13 years
- ‘Where Did I Come From’? by Peter Mayle, illustrations by Arthur Robins.
- ‘Just for Girls’ and ‘Just for Boys’ from Parragon books.
- ‘Mr.P’s Guide for Boys’ and ‘Ms.P’s Guide for Girls’ www.howtotellyourchild.com/product ‘It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health’ by Robie Harris.
- ‘Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex’ by Deborah Roffman.
Cover Story in ParentEdge Nov-Dec 2014 and Jan-Feb 2015 issues – on Online Safety and Child Abuse. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for copies.
Older children will appreciate if you involve them in the conversation, instead of delivering a monologue. Ask questions to understand how much your child already knows, and what she would like to know. This way, you will avoid your tween or teen ‘tuning out’ while you deliver a lecture!
While one parent may be more comfortable talking about sensitive issues, and may handle most of the
conversations, the other parent too should make an effort to overcome his or her shyness and be open to answering questions. This is important, as girls and boys may feel more comfortable discussing
certain aspects of their life with their mothers and fathers respectively.
Do not hesitate to seek help; enlist the support of other adults. You could have practice conversations with your friends or ask them for methods that have worked with their children. Books, articles and
videos are available in plenty to help you (see Box on Resources).
Be prepared to talk about tough topics again and again; once is never enough as children’s understanding flowers with their growth and with time.
“Where did I come from?”
Give age appropriate information. Don’t launch into a biology lesson when a three year old asks this question! At the same time, refrain from giving scientifically wrong explanations to children – ‘a fairy brought you home’. Even with young children, give some factual details, ‘you came from your mother’s stomach’, and then pause. The child may be satisfied with that answer for the time being. For an older child, you could say “A part of me and a part of your father/mother combined to become you.”