How to have "The Talk" with your kids -

How to have "The Talk" with your kids

If you're a parent, chances are you've either had or are thinking about having "The Talk" with your son or daughter. But in today's complex world, it's not just about "the birds and the bees" anymore. So how do you open a dialogue with your kids? Our pediatrician, Dr. Cara Natterson, has some ideas.

"In my opinion, the most important thing about talking to your kids is understanding that it's not just about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll," she says. "I think you should start talking to your kids from a very young age. Anything that's important to them is a conversation that you should have. So when a five-year-old comes home from kindergarten and they've had a bad day, and you sit down and have a long talk about why that day was hard for them, that's a significant talk to them. And that builds trust with a parent."

Dr. Natterson says it's important to start the conversation before kids reach the age when they stop listening to their parents.

"Starting around age 12, the peer group becomes much more important than the parent. After 12, they may in fact go to their peers before they come to you. And that's what most parents don't want. Peer-to-peer information is often wrong," says Dr. Natterson.

There are several strategies you can employ to get the conversation started.

"From the get-go, you can't just sit down and have a conversation about sex with your kid when you've never had a conversation about anything else related to the body or intimacy," she suggests. "You have to start at a point where your child's going to let you in. I usually make that a conversation about changes in the body, and things that are happening inside you."

It sounds simple, but Dr. Natterson knows it's not easy. She suggests some basic guidelines to follow.

The first tip to communicating well with your child is to not ask "yes" or "no" questions.

The next step is when you're asking an open-ended question, ask it in a way that's going to engage your child.

"So if you say, 'I'm wondering if anything's going on with your friend so-and-so,' and they say, 'no' or, 'I don't want to talk about it,' you might re-phrase it and say, 'You know, when I was your age, I had this friend who did X and Y and Z, and I'm wondering if you've ever had an experience like that,'" she explains.

Keeping the communication lines open and being available to your child is key.

"When it comes to 'the talk' about sex or development or intimacy, well that really depends upon the kid," says Dr. Natterson. "Even in my own home, when it comes to just body changes and questions about pregnancy, my older daughter is not very curious at all and doesn't really want to know. And her brother, who's two years younger, has a lot of questions. And that's with the same parents and the same house. So there's no one age. It depends on the kid."

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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