About talking to your kids early and often? A big thank you, halleluliah and Yes Ma'am! to Juggling Jenn who posted a book review on straight talk about sex. I second everything she said. (And want to read the book).
I would like to add that a big piece of keeping the communication open with our kids is to listen without criticizing. If you hear your child repeat a bad word? Or ask one of those questions you didn't think you would hear until they were old enough to vote?
First. Check your feelings at the door.
Second. Keep your expression neutral, open and accepting.
Third. Listen. Quietly. As in, wait. Wait a little longer. Until they finish saying what they need to say. You will be amazed at how much more you hear this way. How much more your kids have heard, seen, or wondered about, when you give them free and neutral space to share.
Fourth. Ask what they think about it.
Refer back to first, second, and third.
Fifth, clear up the errors and uncertainty with as open minded a discussion as you can muster.
Because nothing shuts kids down more than a screechy "OMG! Where did you hear that? I don't ever want to hear you say that again! Is that clear, missy?"
Or a disgusted look. Or feinting. Or throwing yourself to the ground crying. Or throwing a Bible at them.
Like Jenn, whose parenting opinions I admire, we've also had a blow job conversation at the dinner table. And an anal sex conversation. And why kids use so many curse words on the school bus.
And a frank discussion of what it means to flip the bird (give the middle finger, in case you live under a rock).
Because seriously, have you ever tried to explain this doozie of a gesture before to three under-age faces filling their milk-rimmed mouths with ravioli?
On the fly?
As in you've never really thought about what it really means before?
When you're pretty sure they've seen you use this very gesture in the car?
It's not easy. And I'm not sure my husband and I did such a great job. But more important than my kids
seeing their parents squirm understanding what this crude expression conveys and why their parents people unleash the bird with such frequency, we have taught them that they can get accurate information from us, delivered in a calm and sincere manner, designed to teach rather than preach.
Because this is nothing new. People have been cursing at each other and threatening each other and shocking each other with the many ways the human body can be used to dazzle and delight since the dawn of the bear skin thong.
And I hope my way of listening without reacting means I am increasing my influence rather than rendering myself the free speech censor, the disapproving prude, the wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap dispenser. Because if they get a horrified look followed by a punishing message? They're not going to talk to you about anything else they think might horrify you. Or disappoint you.
Respected experts in the field of adolescent development claim that one of the biggest reasons cited by teens for not telling their parents they are thinking about having sex, or have already had sex, is the fear they will disappoint their parents. And second is the fear that parents will punish. That they will wield their almighty social ax. As in, You won't be seeing HIM anymore! Or, Don't ask to go to her party!
So my strategy is to put on my PPF. My parental poker face: I'm not disappointed. I'm not surprised. I'm not shocked. I'm not disgusted. I'm not scared out of my ever-loving-wits.
No. It's perfectly natural for my 10 year old daughter to ask what it means when people say, F*ck you! Or why the boys on the bus shout, Suck my d*ck! Or the girls retort, Eat this!
So with my PPF in place, here is what it means. Here is why they might be saying it. Here is why they think it makes them sound like a grown up. Here is how it hides their insecurity about what it all means because they probably don't have anyone at home who explains this stuff to them in a calm and cool manner.
And finally? Thank them. Thank your kids for having the courage to ask. For being smart enough to get the truth from an adult source. For trusting you enough to talk straight to them.
Okay. Now use your napkin. Because you've got ravioli sauce on your chin.