Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: talk

  • Post Featured Image

    How to Have Real Conversations

    In his book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Earley shares this quote by Mortimer J. Adler: 

    “Without communication, there can be no community. … That is why conversation, discussion, or talk is the most important form of speaking and listening.”

    FRIENDSHIP MATTERS

    In recent years, we are having fewer and fewer sit-down, face-to-face conversations. Those things seem to have been replaced by texting, emojis, messaging on Facebook and emails. All these things may have short-circuited our ability to know each other deeply.

    News stories abound about the increase in anxiety and depression for all ages, we have seen the suicide rate triple for teens, and surveys indicate we as a culture are lonelier than we have ever been. In light of that, perhaps the new year should be designated as a year of intentional conversation with others.

    “Everything in the universe has its roots in friendship,” says Earley. “That means that longing to be in right relationship with other people and things is at the heart of every molecule in existence - and most powerfully in our own hearts.”

    Earley explains that conversation exposes us in two ways: face-to-face conversation brings risks and truth-telling happens.

    HOW WE COMMUNICATE IMPACTS EVERYONE

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle believes that replacing face-to-face communication with technology is depleting people’s capacity for empathy toward others. Research has shown that the way people are currently seeking to communicate through devices has threatened true friendship. Instead of things happening in real time right in front of us, people are planning and curating the versions of themselves that they want to bring to the discussion. 

    Removing tone of voice, facial expression and body language from communication leaves the conversation lacking in so many ways. How can we bring back real, honest conversation? It’s not as hard as you might think.

    • Make an effort to remove devices from the dinner table whether you are at home or at a restaurant. 
    • Create space for regular conversation and fellowship with family and friends. Instead of the well-meaning, “Let's get together soon!” pull up your calendar and set a date to get together to catch up on life. 
    • For the sake of your emotional health, there should be a couple of people you connect with on a regular basis. These would be the people Earley is describing with whom risky conversations take place, truth-telling occurs and perfection is not expected.
    • When it comes to modeling the art of conversation with your children, create tech-free zones/times in your home where your family can come together for game night or other activities that invite the opportunity for conversations to occur. 

    CONVERSATION STARTERS

    If you feel like you aren’t great at getting conversations going, here are a few questions to get you started:

    • What is something that is popular now that totally annoys you and why?
    • What is the best/worst thing about your work/school?
    • If you had intro music, what song would it be and why?
    • Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
    • If you had to change your name, what would it be and why?
    • How should success be measured, and by that measurement, who is the most successful person you know?
    • If you could learn the answer to one question about your future, what would the question be?
    • What was the best period of your life so far? What do you think will be the best period of your entire life?

    People of all ages are actually dying from the lack of community that currently exists in our culture, but that trend does not have to continue. Every person can be intentional about having regular meaningful conversations with others. Imagine how different our culture could be if we all committed to working on this.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 28, 2019.

  • Post Featured Image

    What Parents Need to Know About Preventing Teen Pregnancy

    Teens want to know what adults think, even if they don't act like it.

    • Adults are powerful figures in the lives of young people and hold the key to preventing teen pregnancy.

    • An MTV poll found teens ranked their parents as their #1 heroes.

    Forget about "The Talk." It is an 18-year conversation about love, relationships, values and sex. Start early and let your kids know that you are an "askable parent."

    • Teens tell us their parents tend to give them information too late and in too vague a way.

    • They can get clinical information from school or books (and they already know more than you think), but what they really seek are parents who are comfortable talking with them about relationships, how to handle peer pressure to have sex, how to say "no" without hurting feelings, and other such issues.

    Don't let your daughter get involved with a much older guy.

    • Teen girls who date much older guys are more likely to report later that they didn't really want to have sex in the first place and are less likely to use birth control/contraception.

    • Among mothers aged 15-17, about one in four has a partner who is at least five years older.

    • Older boys and men can lead younger girls into very risky situations and relationships.

    • Seventy percent of teenage pregnancies are caused by guys over the age of 20.

    Sometimes, all it takes for teens not to have sex is not to have the opportunity.

    • Many teens say that if they had something to do after school that's fun and interesting, they are less likely to experiment with sex, drinking, and other risky activities.

    • If parents can't be home with kids after school, they need to make sure their kids are busy doing something constructive and engaging.

    Parents need to make girls feel valued and important. You can't give a girl self-esteem, but you can give her the opportunity to develop it -- encourage her involvement in sports, volunteering, drama classes or other activities that make her feel talented and confident.

    • Girls involved in sports are half as likely to get pregnant as non-athletes, regardless of how much sex education they have. They are more likely to delay sex until they are older, and to use protection when they do so.

    • Another study shows that girls who are active volunteers throughout their high school years have half the teen pregnancy rates of the average for their peers.

    • If you give a girl something positive to say "yes" to, she'll be much more likely to say "no, not yet" to sex and pregnancy.

    • Remember, condoms do not protect the heart.

    Talk to sons as well as daughters. The nearly 1,000,000 teen girls who got pregnant each year don't do it alone.

    • Boys need to know that teen pregnancy happens to them, too. We need to talk to boys - not just girls - about consequences, responsibility, sex, love and values. Surveys show that boys want to do the right thing.

    Learn the facts yourself. It is a scary world out there. Sexually transmitted diseases have multiplied at a frightening rate in the last 30 years.

    • We have gone from two to 38 identifiable Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), and some of these – including AIDS, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and Herpes – are incurable.

    • HPV causes more than 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers, and condoms do not prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 45 million Americans have HPV.

    • In addition, chlamydia is rampant and is frequently symptomless. Chlamydia is a leading cause of infertility in later life.

    Adapted from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Tips for Parents

  • Post Featured Image

    Talking to Your Kids About Sex

    Where did I come from? What are the birds and the bees? What is sex? Sooner or later, your child will begin to ask questions about sex.

    The mere thought of that makes some parents blush and get sick to their stomach. It sends others over the edge. Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hesitate to talk to our children about crossing the street safely or the dangers of playing with fire, but the thought of talking to them about sex – something equally as dangerous – send shivers up the spine? Why?

    Many parents have concerns about talking with their children about sex.

    Perhaps you fear the discussion will promote sex instead of discourage it. Or that your child might ask you about your past. Maybe you're concerned about the potential for questions you can’t answer. Some parents say that it is just too embarrassing.

    These are legitimate concerns. However, there is no evidence to suggest that talking about sex encourages the act.

    Consider the facts:

    • 41.2 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) have had sex. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 11.5 percent said they had had four or more sexual partners. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 30.1 percent said they had had sexual intercourse in the past three months. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 3.9 percent of U.S. teens said they had had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 15 to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. Centers for Disease Control 2015 STD Surveillance Report

    The Information Highway 

    If children aren’t learning about sex from you, where do they look for the answers? When Barna Research group asked, “Who should be responsible for teaching young people about sex?” respondents overwhelmingly said that parents should be the ones to teach their children about sex. But numerous surveys of teens and young adults say that television and the Internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex, usually followed by schools, parents and peers.

    Today’s children are hearing about sex much earlier and are exposed to sexuality at virtually every turn in our society. Research has shown that by the time a child turns 18 he/she has witnessed 250,000 sexual acts on television. Interestingly, more than 75 percent of the videos on MTV show some sort of sexual act in which the woman is a sexual object. In 2009, approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Top 10 contained reproductive messages. (None of these figures include images on the Internet and social media.)

    YES! Parents Really Can Make a Difference!

    Studies show that you can most dramatically impact your child’s behavior by clearly defining your expectations within the context of close family connectedness. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (and many other studies), perceived parental disapproval of teen sexual activity and contraceptive use significantly influences the delay of risky sexual behavior in teenagers.

    Simply put, parents should be the first and best educators of their children in all matters. This is especially true about human sexuality, growth and development, and healthy attitudes and values about relationships. Although young people tend to act embarrassed, research has shown that teens do want accurate information and they prefer getting the information from you.

    The best time to start talking with children about sex is when they are young. Look for teachable moments, such as when you see a pregnant woman or a peer's new brother or sister, as a natural discussion-starter.

    The Talk

    Focus your conversation with elementary-age children on:

    • the correct names of sexual organs and body parts,

    • explaining sex and reproduction,

    • personal boundaries,

    • pregnancy, and

    • building healthy relationships.

    If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Make sure to clarify your child’s question. When you understand the question, answer it briefly and simply. If they want to know more, they'll ask additional questions. You might want to practice talking privately with your spouse or another adult.

    Middle school students need to talk about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases and infections,

    • emotions,

    • the consequences of sexual relationships, and

    • the benefits of abstinence.

    As embarrassing as it may be, it is crucial that you talk with your teen about all aspects of sex, including oral sex. It's also a good time to discuss why people date and what healthy dating relationships look like.

    Discussions with high school students should continue to be about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases,

    • healthy dating relationships,

    • wise decision-making when it comes to sex,

    • setting a standard and living by it, and

    • self-discipline, in addition to everything listed above.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

  • Post Featured Image

    When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

    There is a commercial on television showing a father and his very inquisitive daughter sharing a meal together. Rapid fire, she asks why the sky is blue, why zebras have stripes, if turtles like cheese, why she has fingerprints, etc. For each question, the dad gets a little help from an insurance agent who is seated right behind him. However, when the girl asks her dad where babies come from, the agent asks for his check and quickly disappears.

    Where do babies come from?

    That question can make adults squirm and respond with some creative answers. One answer even involves eating a watermelon seed that grows in mom’s belly. When one mom returned the question, her daughter replied, “When two people love each other, the dad buys a pumpkin seed and gives it to the mom. Then her stomach gets big like a pumpkin!”

    It's great that children are actually asking their parents for this information. While the topic might cause tremendous angst for some, there is no better person to answer than their parent. Instead of sidestepping the question or giving a crazy answer, use the opportunity to provide enough age-appropriate answers and muster enough boldness to encourage more questions in the future.

    Many parents say they want to be the one to teach their children about sex. Yet teen and young adult surveys show that's not the case. TV and the internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex. School, parents and peers are next on the list.

    It's great to start talking with your children about sex when they are young, even though some parents want to wait until their child brings it up. If you cringe and have a deer-in-the headlights look at the thought of discussing sex, your child may believe the topic is off limits.

    Experts say parents should begin having age-appropriate conversations with their children around age 6. At this stage, children are often curious about their bodies and why their body is different from their sibling’s. They may even be hearing things from other schoolchildren. It is important that children have accurate information from the person they should be able to trust: their parent. So take a deep breath and wade in the water.

    Young children often ask where they came from. For starters, a parent can ask their child where they think they came from. The child might actually be asking where they were born. With a serious sigh of relief, that is easily answered. Another option for 5- and 6-year-olds is to read a book. Baby on the Way or Where Did I Come From? are good examples.

    For elementary-age children, focus conversations on correctly naming sexual organs and private parts, personal boundaries, pregnancy and building healthy relationships. If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Clarify the question and keep your answers age-appropriate, brief and simple. If they want to know more, they'll usually ask. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. You can always say, ”Let me get back to you about that,” then make sure that you do.

    The thought of talking with your child about sex may cause your heart to race and your stomach to flutter. But remember, they are only asking because they are curious. Parents are their first and best teachers.