Parenting: How to talk to your children about sensitive topics

Children are more likely to share their experiences now with parents than we might have done decades ago

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Thu 30 May 2024, 6:53 PM

Dear parents, picking up from where I left off two weeks ago on the birds and bees narrative, I want to examine what mostly deters us as parents to have open conversations about important but sensitive subjects such as this.

It’s a given that parent-child relationships have now transcended the old restrictive models and there is a general bonhomie between the two generations that fosters friendship and understanding between them. Children are more likely to share their experiences now with parents than we might have done decades ago, and parents too are better cued to receive the inputs with equanimity.

Parents in their 30s and 40s, especially those settled in advanced societies, are realistic about what their children are exposed to and might be prone to in the modern world, yet in many societies there are cultural codes that restrict open communication. I am sure you have felt the baggage of your own traditional upbringing playing spoilsport in your efforts to bridge communication gaps with your children.

Cultural differences between societies are hard to wish away. Things that might be acceptable in one part of the world may not be wholeheartedly welcomed in another part, no matter how educated the parents are or how inclined to adapt. Some of our rudimentary nature will remain ingrained in us and we will not allow them to be thwarted in the name of modernity. Under such circumstances, the topic of bees and birds can not only be uncomfortable for parents but also embarrassing to the children. Which is where laying the ground for openness right from the beginning makes practical sense.

We shouldn’t be faced with the prospect of having to talk about the basic realities of life with either guilt or remorse. Hence prepare yourself for this phase in life when you will have to make the vital conversations without strain. It won’t be easy unless we try to shed our inhibitions of the past and embrace the realities of the present. Like any old habit or conditioning, it may take huge efforts to shake off our archaic ways and embrace change. We may have to strive hard to get into a comfort zone, but know that in the process of this transformation, we are growing too as parents.

Let not old cultural beliefs make you inept as parents of modern children. The best way to circumvent any such restrictive thought is to accept the change as a part of your evolution into becoming responsible parents who don’t leave any stone unturned to make sure your children are kept safe from the dangers of a new world. It’s for them that you have to adapt, so that following you, they may learn to tailor their thoughts and ways to lead a secure life.

We are not chopping our roots and becoming loose; we are merely pruning our ways so that our branches grow stronger. We are not chucking our morals; we are merely tweaking our manner of dealing with challenges of a fast-paced, manipulative world.

Our children must know the good from the bad, and for this we must teach them to identify the true nature of life outside home. It doesn’t serve any purpose to keep them shielded from the facts of life in the name of cultural codes, for they are going to discover it from other unreliable sources, sooner or later. On the other hand, it is to uphold the morals that kept us from treading the dangerous paths and to make sure they too grow up unharmed that we must be ready to speak.

Let’s do a spot test here. How would you respond if your child came home one day and said to you that she or he is attracted to a classmate? Think about it, and we will dissect the scenario in the next epistle. Until then, happy parenting.

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