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By Marc Courtiol
No one said parenting was going to be easy. As children grow up, countless issues can arise, and as parents it is our job to try to guide our children through these times to the best of our abilities. An essential part of this job is to talk to our children about serious issues that kids face. These talks are not always easy, and they can be downright uncomfortable for both parent and child. However, they are crucial for a child’s development, and they are also useful for establishing the lines of communication.
There are a few parent-child talks that we often think of as milestones because they occur at important moments in a child’s growth. Many of these talks are as difficult as they are important, and it is not always clear how to approach them. Here are six of the most difficult ones.
All children face bullying at one time or another. What parenting experts tend to forget is that for every bullied child there is a bully, and in fact the same child may play both roles at various times. But even though we may think of bullying as a standard part of childhood, it is a serious issue. It can be damaging not only to kids’ self-esteem and confidence but also to their school performance. On the other side, bullying behavior often signals deep insecurities or unresolved troubles at home.
Bullying usually starts as early as pre-school, so it is never too early to bring up this topic. Later, it is important to make sure your child knows that he can come to you if he is ever bullied.
2. Self-esteem and body image
Eating disorders are a growing problem among young people of all backgrounds. These issues are most common in girls, but they are also on the rise among boys and young men. Although there are many causes of eating disorders, the most common are low self-esteem and body image problems that come about due to impossibly high standards of beauty set by the media and perpetuated by one’s peers.
The signs of eating disorders may begin as early as elementary school, and they tend to reach their peak during the teen years. In talking about this subject, it is important for parents tell their children that they are beautiful just as they are. While we don’t want to perpetuate the impossible beauty standards, it is a good idea to give our kids the tools to live healthy lives.
All children undergo major physical and emotional changes during puberty. The physical effects of this stage of life are most obvious for girls, but boys may also feel bewildered by the changes they notice in their bodies. Most schools cover these issues in their sexual education programs, but parents need to be there to pick up the slack, especially given the fact that sex ed programs are being cut in many areas throughout the U.S.
The fabled sex talk may be the most difficult conversation that parents have to have with their children. We like to think that our kids are not interested in sex, but the uncomfortable fact is that humans are sexual beings from a very early age. Meanwhile, kids may be just as uncomfortable hearing about sex from their parents. But by approaching the topic with a sense of humor and in the spirit of openness, parents can make sure that the talk is relatively painless. Plus, a little mild discomfort never hurt anyone.
5. Smoking, drugs, and alcohol
Kids usually have their first exposure to cigarettes and drugs during middle school, and the pressures become more and more intense during high school before peaking in college. Kids need to know that they can talk with their parents about anything, and they should not feel afraid to talk openly about any peer pressure or temptation they may be facing from their peers. Drugs and alcohol can damage young people for life, so it is important to tackle these issues as early as possible.
6. Internet privacy
It may be hard to fathom, but these days there are college freshman who cannot remember a world without the internet. Unfortunately, young people are far ahead of their parents in the realm of technology and online communication. As a result, many parents are not even aware of many of the serious issues that the internet has created.
While we may worry most about things like internet porn or web-based predators, privacy online is likely to become one of the defining issues of our time. Kids are wont to be reckless with their web-based sharing, and this can have potentially disastrous effects on their future lives. Parents should make an effort to be literate with regard to these issues and to make sure their kids set limits online.
About Marc: Marc Courtiol is an accomplished health researcher in the field of natural wellness. A graduate from Cornell, Marc is a contributing author for several online journal sites and believes in the many uses of gripe water. Marc has a blog on improving digestive wellness published in the Natural Health Journals.