Sunday, April 9, 2017

Awkward Conversations - An introduction

When I was about 10, I asked my mother how you told the difference between male and female cats. She acted puzzled for a moment and then said 'I think you can tell by looking at their faces'. As we only had one male cat at the time, I was unable to compare his face to any other cats, so I had to just presume that it was the case. 

When I was fourteen we had sex education at school. The boys were separated from the girls. I had no idea what boys would have to talk about when it came to the birds and the bees. To this point in time, all I knew on the matter had come from a 1970's book that was presented to me in a brown paper bag and filled with grainy pastel illustrations. Incidentally, I only owned that book for 6 months as it was taken off me in order to give it to my school friend whose 15 year old sister had found herself pregnant. But I digress......

In year 8 sex education, the boys went to one classroom and the girls to another. I wondered what was going on in the boys' lesson. So I went home and asked my mum about it, asking if boys also had a monthly menstrual cycle. She said they didn't. It would be many years before I fully understood what the boys were talking about in their 'secret lessons'.

Although I am highlighting the things that my mum didn't tell me. I am well aware that most people 30 years old and above would have had a similar experience to me. Our baby-booming parents were brought up in an era where politeness and delicacy in conversations was paramount. Matters were discussed using euphemisms that only the enlightened understood, such as 'you're a young woman now', 'that special time of the month'. My mum didn't set out to deceive me or leave me in the dark, she just didn't have the vocabulary and confidence to tell me how it really was.

Sadly, there are plenty of kids in the playground and even teachers in the classroom who are happy to tell your children all about the facts of life, along with a whole lot of other matters that used to be the responsibility of parents to tackle. Although it may be the more convenient and less awkward option, when you leave it up to another person to tell your children about the important issues of life, they also subtly communicate their own values and beliefs on the topic. If you want your child to understand and respect your perspective on these delicate matters, then you need to be the one to explain them from your viewpoint. 

Over the next few weeks, I am going to explore some of these awkward conversations and suggest ways that you could tackle them. Ideally, you will read my ideas and then improve upon them and adapt them for your own family context. You will also find that as you read my thoughts, you will also get an idea of my personal worldview. Many of you will agree with it, others of you will see things very differently. Despite our differences, we still need to have these conversations with our children, the way we approach the conversations may be similiar, but the content of the conversations may be different. That's okay. I just want you to have those conversations so that your children aren't left to connect the dots with unpleasant consequences. 

So strap yourselves in, throw out your 1980's rule book on raising children and get ready to have some conversations that aren't really that awkward after

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