By Jessi Robertson
As a mom of four and a family therapist for almost 17 years, I have talked with many parents who are unsure how to discuss some difficult topics with their children. It is normal to feel scared, uncomfortable or even embarrassed to bring up some things with your kids, but communication is a huge factor in raising resilient, healthy and happy children. If you are not sure when you should start addressing certain subjects, here is a general guide.
BODY BOUNDARIES: AGES 3-5
Encourage your kids to respect themselves and others. Teach them about appropriate touch and how to say “no” to unwanted touch, and teach them to identify trusted adults they can talk to. It is also important for parents to model healthy body image.
PUBERTY AND DEVELOPMENT: AGES 8-12
If this talk causes embarrassment, it is always helpful to keep the discussion based in science. Let your children know that their bodies are changing, and this is normal. Teach children about the chemicals in their bodies (hormones) that are working to help them grow, and explain that it is normal to feel weird or out of control during this process.
SEX AND HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS: AGES 10-13
As your child is developing, or possibly even when you began to explain puberty, you also might have gotten questions about why these changes happen. This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about sex and reproduction. This is also a chance to begin talking with your child about what healthy relationships look like and your family’s values.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND TEXTING AGES 8+ (AND ONGOING)
This will be an evolving conversation as your child’s access to technology grows and as technology advances. Tech and social media are fun ways to communicate, but parents can talk to their kids about online safety and what is OK and not OK to share with others. Whether your child has a cell phone yet or not, it’s still important to make him or her aware of the risks, as well as the benefits, of technology. Educate your child on school rules and laws regarding social media and sharing content with others and what your family or others would consider inappropriate. A good rule of thumb for kids: Never put anything on text/social media that you wouldn’t want your mom or grandma to read if she saw a screenshot.
Jessi Robertson, MS, LMFT, is a licensed therapist and owner of Bloom Wellness in Ocean Springs. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.