As children grow up and begin understanding the world better, they also start having doubts. Several questions arise in their minds like, “What is happening to my body?”, “Why can’t my parents buy me my favourite cycle?”, “Does that individual like me?”. While a child may seek answers to some of the questions or doubts that are troubling him, he may not feel comfortable discussing others with his parents.
Parents need to understand what their child may be going through, or may go through, and discuss the issues to help them grow up with as emotionally healthy individuals.
Here are 6 things that every parent should discuss with their child while he is growing up:
1. Puberty: Although every child will attain puberty, most parents feel very uncomfortable discussing the subject with their children. The ‘talk’ about the various changes the body would go through should begin before the child attains puberty. Parents of a girl should educate their child about how to take care of herself when she begins her periods, from whom to seek help when outside of home, (like in school), simple things to do to tackle cramps, and the garments she would be needing as her body develops. For boys, the discussion should include the growth of genitals, facial hair and body, and the deepening of voice. Along with what you tell your child, it is also a good idea to gift him books that explain pubertal changes in age-appropriate language.
In pre-adolescence, cognitive development helps children understand and figure out a lot more than they could hitherto. This is the right time to prepare children for the onset of puberty, what to expect, and how to cope with the changes that occur. These conversations help the child understand them in the right perspective, and most importantly, help them accept the biological processes in a positive manner. —*Arundhati Swamy
2. Sex: Pubertal changes give rise to sexual urges, which children don’t know how to manage or control. So, along with talking to your child about puberty, also tell how to manage her sexual feelings in a healthy way. Tell your child about your moral beliefs regarding sex and what you expect from her. Remember, half-baked information coupled with lack of proper guidance, can make your child indulge in risky behaviour.
A teen’s growing awareness of sexual information leads to pre-occupations and behaviours which they may not yet fully understand. Hence mature guidance through discussions and chats with parents/adults can help them cope with their thoughts and feelings about relationships and sexual behaviours. Since the emotional regulation, decision making and impulse control areas of the brain are still developing, teens need strong, firm and helpful adult support. —Arundhati Swamy
3. Drugs and alcohol: Problems related to substance abuse is on the increase, as peddlers have now begun targeting even young school-going children. Talk to your tween about the harmful effects of substance abuse and the various ways in which he can be lured into picking up the habit. To help your child open up to the subject, you can initiate a discussion by asking his opinion on this topic.
Pre-adolescence is the right time to talk about drugs and alcohol, because it is during this phase that healthy habits can be consolidated. Also, now their growing abilities, talents and strengths boost their self-belief. Positive experiences are creating robust networks in their brain. Their resilience to adversities is bolstered; their values are reinforced, thus making them less vulnerable to temptations and experimentation of the teenage years. —Arundhati Swamy
4. Corruption: With issues related to corruption, and the fight against corruption taking centre-stage, it is important to make our children aware of it. Cite some examples of corruption for your child to understand the issue better. Make her understand how she can keep high moral standards, prevent corruption and contribute to making public life cleaner.
5. Relationships: Increasing pressure on relationships has resulted in an increase in incidents of break-ups, marital disputes and divorces. Tell your child about why relationships break up and how to deal with the after-effects of break-ups. To make her understand, you can give her an example of breaking up with her friend and dealing with the issues later on. Also, tell her a bit about divorces, why they happen and what happens to children when parents are divorced. Above all, tell her the importance of nurturing healthy relationships.
Early and mid-adolescence is when they naturally experience major emotional changes, typical among them is infatuation and attraction to the opposite sex. The new feelings and thoughts can be quite confusing. A supportive parent can be of invaluable assistance in helping the child cope with the confusions. This will prevent the child from getting carried away by those sweeping emotions. Timely guidance can help them distinguish between what is infatuation and romance, and what is love. —Arundhati Swamy
6. Finances: It takes time for children to understand the importance of money, although they become aware how essential money is quite early in their lives. As a result, children sometimes make unreasonable demands, like asking for a particular gadget or toy, without realising how much it costs. So, help your child understand finances by explaining to her how much you spend on the household budget, why it is important to save for the future, what unwise spending habits can do to a family, and so on.
Although money-handling should have been introduced earlier, later adolescence is the period during which their advanced thinking skills support more complex analytical processes. They are now capable of higher level budgeting and participating in decisions regarding family finances. It feeds their growing independence in a healthy manner. —Arundhati Swamy
While you may want your child to tell you everything, you may not feel easy speaking to her about issues that are really important. But, with a little bit of brainstorming, you can always come up with some idea about how to broach a particular subject. For example, you can start the conversation by talking about something your child is interested in, and then steer the discussion in the direction of the subject you wish to discuss. If you are unable to put your inhibitions behind or come up with ideas to start a dialogue, you can seek help from a counsellor about how to talk to your child on issues that every parent should discuss with their child.
*Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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