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The “Talk”

Parents are the first teachers. Maybe the most important one as they spend more time with their child than any one teacher does.

Parents teach all the time: They speak words that kiddies learn. They model grownup behavior for their children. They teach values by word and deed. They foster curiosity.

Most parents do this automatically remembering their own parents as teachers. Or they pick ideas up from other parents, parenting books, or the internet.

One area many, if not most, parents need help with is The “Talk.” In days of old the topic of sex was avoided until first menses when mother taught her daughter about sanitary napkins and warned her that now she could get pregnant so she had to be a good girl. At obvious signs of puberty in a son, the father explained what being a man meant usually focusing on venereal diseases.

It’s a new world out there. Talking with children about sex must start much earlier and be initiated by the parent if the child does not ask about where babies come from. (See ParenTip on Sexuality Education.)

And the “Talk” must include other topics all of which teach the child about avoiding the dangers of growing up in today’s world. These include alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and distracted driving.

One quarter of those between 12 and 20 reported drinking within the previous month. MADD research finds that children and adolescents who drink do worse at school, are more apt to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy, and more likely to become alcoholic (40% of kids who drink before age 13, become alcohol dependent). The good news is that frank, ongoing conversations with parents who are caring and thoughtful can prevent or reverse early drinking.

Drugs continue to be a problem in teens. Marijuana leads the list but the scary thing is that teens obtain and abuse prescription drugs. 24% of teens admit to this, a 33% increase since 2008. 27% of teens queried believe taking a prescription drug to get high is safer than using street drugs…and so do 16% of parents. Pain killers lead the pack but Ritalin abuse is becoming more common. Sad: Close to 1/3 of parents agree with the statement that Ritalin can improve school performance even in non-ADHD kids. Even sadder: 20% of parents said they gave prescription medicine to their teen though the prescription was not written for the teen.

Rates of teen smoking have decreased to an all-time low. But cigarette smoking is associated with poor school performance and illegal drug use. And tobacco is an addicting substance with dire downstream effects like lung cancer.

Learning to drive and getting a driver’s license are rites of passage for virtually all American teens. And teens are doing something right as fatalities related to teen driving have dropped. BUT nearly half of teen drivers do not wear seat belts and 1/3 text or email while driving. (See ParentKidsRight Newsletter of June 5, 2013.)

In addition to starting early and cautioning about all of these topics, dialogue about these dangers must be ongoing. And even before all of this parents need to teach their young children the three “R’s.” These are RESPECT for self and others (and the planet), RESPONSIBILITY for oneself and ones actions, and REASON ability so the child learns how to think through decisions. (See Raising Responsible Children: Part II ParenTip.)

Children who have mastered the three R’s can reason how to avoid peer pressures, grasp the anguish that an accident due to a stupid choice will cause, and understand they and only they are responsible for a stupid decision. But learning this takes time, time to have many dialogues with informed parents who take their time to initiate the right kind of discussions.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS THEY CAN GET A PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, AND PRIVATE ANSWER TO THEIR PARENTING QUESTIONS BY GOING TO info@ParentKidsRight.com