“I wish my parents would talk about this stuff – they think that if we don’t talk about it, it’s not happening.”
The quote almost sounds made up, doesn’t it? But this is what one teenager said to me recently when it was revealed that my kids and I talk about a lot of stuff that, generally, starts with me saying. . . “so I was reading an article.”
(And, to quote our daughter “she reads so many articles.”)
We’ve talked about drugs and alcohol. Sex and consent. Sexting, nude photos and why you shouldn’t send a picture of your junk. Bullying and gossip. The list is exhausting and there is something new almost every day.
In the beginning, I think my husband was appalled by the topics I brought up with the kids. Topics he (and I) really didn’t want to talk about because they were scary, embarrassing or left the two of us feeling a wee bit nauseous. Subjects that when discussed, some may accuse, implies consent.
I would say that instead, it created a safe space. (Or, as I’ve said to our son, there is a difference between being “cool” and being “okay.”) Space where they can tell us what is going on, and where we could tell them what we think. Space where we can bring up topics that are concerning us without them feeling attacked, and where they give us “the facts.”
It is not a space that is without feedback, commentary or even consequences. And they both know that if there is something that comes up that impacts the safety of themselves or others we reserve the right to take whatever steps may be needed.
I’ve never been one to offer parenting advice – but this is one bit I would like to share. If you are a parent of a teenager or pre-teen, make some space for both of you to start talking, and listening.
It may seem scary. It will absolutely be uncomfortable. It will not insulate them from harm or mistakes. But not talking about “it” (choose yours – sex, drugs, rock & roll) doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It just means you don’t know what is going on, and, your kids may feel they don’t have anyone to talk to when they need someone the most.