Parenting: How to have open and honest communications with your children

It is the only way to stop children from getting into misadventures

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Thu 9 May 2024, 5:44 PM

Dear Parents, there is an incident from my teens that I bashfully remember even today and share on appropriate occasions when the context is right. I was in grade nine then and a relative of ours had just broken the news about the stork’s arrival in their house. The glad tidings were received by the family with some surprise to which the middle-aged couple with two grown-up daughters said, “It is a miracle; God’s gift. It was confirmed a day after we returned from Tirupati (a temple town in South India).”

I was a naïve 14-year-old brought up in an orthodox family with religious leanings and went to a girls school where the state syllabus had a prosaic two-page lesson on ‘reproduction’ which the Biology teacher quickly skimmed through. Completely alien to the concepts of the birds and the bees, I believed every word the lady had said, and ‘the miracle’ was a matter of huge astonishment to me.

It took many more years for me to know the basics of man-woman relationships and its extensions, because discussions around these fundamental facts of life were huge taboos and I cannot imagine either of my parents priming me with the essential knowledge that I could have used when the need for it came in life.

Times have changed now and how! Today’s pre-teens and adolescents have every source at their disposal to know about one of the primal instincts of all living things, and the laws of nature that propel procreation. There is no dearth of material that can fuel and fulfil their curiosities. Be that as it may, the questions that often bother me are these: Are our children getting the right lessons? Is their knowledge about man-woman relationships (on both physical and emotional levels) coming from authentic sources? Or are they gleaning it from the vast metaverse aided by technology and its easy access? How can we, as parents, make sure that they don’t gorge on ruinously distorted and salacious information from outside?

The simplest answer is—by being their trusted sources.

A distressed mother once told me how she had caught her 15-year-old daughter having steamy chats with a group of friends, and how she was scandalised by what she had read. That children of the girl’s age are very informed and they indulge in such conversations with their friends should come as no surprise, but the fact that some parents are treated to such rude awakenings proves one thing: That many of them still don’t have open communication about gender and relationships with their children.

It’s foolhardy to believe that our children are insulated from influences; that they are incapable of taking risks and chances with their bodies. The only way to prevent them from going wayward or flirting with danger is by initiating age-appropriate discussions as they grow, prompting them to ask questions and reveal secrets. There is no doubt that to many conservative, culturally sensitive parents, the very thought might be cringe-worthy or horrifying, but it is the only way to stop children from getting into misadventures. As parents, our obligation is not to give them academic education alone; we also have the responsibility of helping them know facts of life that may be uncomfortable but are inevitable because the world has changed.

Modern day parents cannot be complacent, for children now belong to a no holds barred time that gives them ample opportunity to try and test their curiosities. Giving them accurate information and creating a supportive environment to talk about topics hitherto considered no-no will make them responsible and empowered youngsters. More on how to go about doing it, in the next. Until then, happy parenting.

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