Your initial instinct might be to censor your own experiences when talking about taboo subjects with your kid(s). You might feel like the need to censor yourself is absolute; you might feel so strongly about this that you never reexamine the reasons behind it.
Maybe you feel bad about choices you made, or maybe you forgot what it’s like to be their age. You might be sheltering them. Maybe you just want to give them the perfect example and save them the lessons you learned. Or maybe, you want to avoid any impression that certain behaviors are “OK.”
Later in life, many adult children reflect on their ability to talk about taboo subjects with their parents, in the context of “I felt like they wouldn’t understand.” How many of these parent mistakes might be shutting the door to communication?
If you forgot what it’s like to be that age, have you also forgotten what it was like talking to your own parents about taboo issues?
Think back to your own childhood. Did your parents talk openly about drugs and sex? Would they ever have told you a personal anecdote about something so uncomfortable? If you experimented as a teen, would you have ever gone to them to talk? Most of us will answer a resounding “No” three times over. The best start toward better parenting is to use the examples we’ve seen as an opportunity to introspect.
We all experience peer pressure as teenagers. And, admittedly to varying degrees, we all experiment, be it sex, drugs, or rock and roll. There are ways to share how it felt to be pressured, or what you remember it being like as a teenager. You can at least touch on the taboo topics as a narrator of the high school you knew. By bringing up the topics of sex or drugs, you convey that these issues are not off-limits.
Communication in the Household is key
Effective communication between parents and their children is paramount when it comes to navigating the challenges of life.
Anecdote over lecture:
It is understandable why we fall into the trap of self-censorship. The desire to save your child(ren) the pain of mistakes you made drives you to eradicate every example of adolescent experimentation from your “perfect parent” image. But your parenting style builds itself on an untruth, if only by omission.
No-regrets parenting hinges on candor. It allows you to speak to your child(ren) with personal anecdotes, circumventing the feel of the traditional lecture. With candid, personal stories, discussions no longer revolve around what the child “should” or “shouldn’t do.”
Taboo conversations that deal in right and wrong, without the reality that peer pressure and curiosity are wholly resistant to this rhetoric, shuts down open and honest communication.
Stun Your Readers
Let your kids know that you understand
How to start talking:
Talk about taboo topics in an age-appropriate manner, but be realistic about when your child(ren) might first be exposed to opportunity. You can start by talking about the realities of peer pressure when you were in school. If you end up sharing an anecdote as an answer to a question, it will be even more removed from the “lecture” model of discussion, and all the better received for it.
Don’t let the “perfect parent” image get in the way of talking to your child(ren); your biggest parenting regret might end up being how “perfect” you were. Guiding your children does not have to be done by harness and reign. Instead, you can council as a former teenager with the years of hindsight to know which things are important.
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