Having those hard conversations
October is Let’s Talk Month, and there are so many ways conversations about sex and relationships can start. Are you ready for any and all of these?
Sometimes your child drops a zinger of a conversation starter. One of my client’s daughters asked her, out of the blue, “Why does a penis stick out sometimes?” and she was very glad we had just gone over how to answer these questions in our group!
Other times the movie your family chooses to watch is full of sexual innuendo that you forgot was there – that happened to one of my clients recently. Just last night, a dad at my workshop told a story of watching a Star Trek episode with his kid. Normally a pretty benign series, this one included Warf delivering a baby under duress…and lots of follow up questions from the child.
But Let’s Talk Month isn’t just acknowledging the conversations that pop up and surprise us. Some of these conversations need to be initiated. That means we need to have courage and a plan.
One of my clients brilliantly used her daughter’s desire to watch a mature TV series as the “carrot” for having future conversations. She said, “That series has a lot of sex in it, and if you’re too uncomfortable to talk about that stuff, then I don’t think you’re ready to watch it. But when we can talk about sex and relationships and it’s no big deal, then it’ll make sense…” and now her daughter is much more willing to engage.
That might simply mean choosing a book to read together (here are my favorites) or watching a video together to prompt the conversation. Or it might mean dancing around to Madonna for a while and then asking your child what it means to feel “like a Virgin”. Or walking by the Victoria’s Secret store to pause and look at the ads in the window.
Other times, it’s not so easy to engineer. You know that the conversation needs to happen, and you also know your child will definitely want to shut it down. Rather than letting it unfold the way you know it will, it’s better to be really transparent, set expectations, and ask for input. Something like:
“Hey, we need to have a 15 minute conversation about porn. Is now a good time?”
“Oh my God, dad, No!!”
“Ok, then we can put it off ‘til tomorrow. What can we do to make this as comfortable for you as possible?”
One of my favorite organizations, BACHE, is sponsoring a video contest (with prizes!), asking parents what their conversation starter will be this month. You can watch the videos (including mine!) and gain inspiration here.
If you’re flummoxed by the challenge of Let’s Talk Month, you’re not alone. That’s the whole point, to make us face our discomfort, acknowledge that it’s there, push through if we can, or seek help if we’re stuck. I bet your parents didn’t have these conversations with you – and it was a mistake. You totally get to have someone show you how to respond to difficult questions and open conversations. Click here for a FREE 30 min consultation. I promise you’ll walk away with something useful.
In support of you,
P.S. The next Opening the Conversation group program starts next month! If you’ve wanted a community of parents who get your challenges and share your goals, a toolkit of strategies to handle each of these situations, and a plan for what to talk about and when, let’s chat and see if it’s a fit.