by Jenny Mathews, contributing writerFather And Son Hiking In Countryside

How do you talk to your kids about the “tough” subjects, and when should you do it?

While there is some education as to the basics of human anatomy and reproduction and the effects of alcohol and drug use, bullying and peer pressure in schools, ideally parents are the ones to establish the practical, moral and/or religious framework within which a child can place the bits and pieces of information they gather elsewhere. Truth: Your children will gather information elsewhere, so a great place to begin is finding out what they already know.

If you begin the discussion early enough, you have more control over what they take away from the information they get from peers, the media and school.

Prepare yourself: The more you know about how you feel about the topic and how you want to present the information to your child, the better the discussion will go. Based on my experiences and research, I offer the following suggestions for preparing yourself:

  1. When and where will you initiate the conversation? You know your child best. Is there a place or time when they’re more at ease and that might make your conversation easier?
  2. Put together a short list of topics to cover and what you want your child to understand and remember most.
  3. Will someone else (i.e. a spouse) be there as well? You may want to prepare together.
  4. In the interest of fairness, consider giving your child a “heads up.” This gives them time to pr Encourage them to come ready with questions.
  5. Do your homework. There are countless books you can order or check out, lots of articles and helpful videos online that address talking with your children
  6. Expect questions and be ready to answer them even if the answer is, “I’m not sure, let’s look it up!”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and suggest that by the time your child is a teenager, they should know the following:

  • Correct body names and functions of male and female sex organs.
  • Puberty and how the body changes (When and how the body changes is different for each child).
  • Menstruation (periods).
  • Sexual intercourse and the risk of getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
  • Your family values about dating, sexual activity, cigarettes, alcohol , drugs, etc.

Do’s and don’ts for tough conversations:

  • DO pay attention to your child’s expressions. Do they need more information or are you going over their head? Stay at their level as best you can.
  • DON’T let them see you sweat. Whether or not you are nervous, make sure they know you are comfortable enough that they won’t hesitate to come to you with questions in the future.
  • DO make it clear to them that you expect them to come to you with questions in the future. This will be an ongoing discussion.
  • DON’T go on and on about everything you know about a topic. Keep it brief and to the point. Let the books or websites do the talking when and if necessary.
  • DO stress to your child that you love them no matter what. You just want them to have all the tools and information they need to make their own good choices.

Homework for Parents