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Spring Has Sprung

It’s that time of year again, spring, a time of renewal and rebirth. We get to watch the flowers blossoming and green grass return to our parks. With all of this happening, I recently found myself witnessing a rather amusing spring-themed scene: a parent was faced with the challenge of explaining to their young child why two stray cats were “reproducing” in public. They stumbled over their words, trying to find the right way to address the situation. As a counselor, it brought back memories of my early days in the field, navigating the balance between providing factual information and maintaining age-appropriate conversations with kids. So on this spring day, I’d like to share with you some advice for these, sometimes awkward, conversations with kids of any age.

Having been integrated into various communities over the years and conducting countless classes with students from elementary to high school, I’ve become more at ease discussing topics that may make some people uncomfortable. Regardless of where I’ve lived, I’ve found it important that our conversations at school also occur at home. With some of these lessons beginning in elementary school at this time of year, here are a few tips I regularly share with parents:

  • My first tip is an easy one: use what has already been created! There are numerous books and materials available that can serve as conversation starters aligned with your family’s values. Even watching a show or movie that touches upon these topics can be helpful.
  • Next, it’s important to talk to kids in an age-appropriate way. My chats with high schoolers are VERY different from those I have with a first grader. With younger kids, keep it simple and focus on the basics. As they grow older, additional details can be introduced, including information on reproductive health, while addressing the emotional aspects of growing up. Keep things factual and if for some reason a question comes up that is shocking, first find out what they know about it. Sometimes they’ve heard a term without truly understanding the meaning behind it. Once you know their level of understanding, if they are not ready for more information, be honest, and tell them this will be answered when they are older.
  • Start early! Introducing basic concepts about bodies from a young age using age-appropriate language and materials lays the groundwork for more in-depth discussions later on. It’s also the beginning of fostering conversations about body positivity.
  • In an international community, addressing cultural norms is unavoidable. Puberty discussions offer an opportunity to challenge and discuss cultural beliefs surrounding bodies and health, promoting inclusivity, diversity, and acceptance among children. It prepares them if their friends have different perspectives and how to handle these situations with understanding.
  • Prepare them for peer pressure! Our children and teens may encounter peer pressure related to body image, relationships, and intimate activity. By openly discussing these issues, we can help our children develop the confidence to make informed decisions and resist negative influences. Speaking specifically about consent and how to say “no” is something they can always be reminded of!

With so many places our children can get misinformation online, avoiding these topics can cause more harm than good. To guide our children toward healthy decision-making, we need to help them remain appropriately informed, they need families to foster supportive communication, and they need adults to model healthy lifestyles. Ultimately, the values we impart and model to our kids as they mature lay the foundation upon which they build their future choices.

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