In a recent lecture for parents, Dr. Don Azevedo discussed the fine balance of raising an informed, but responsible teenager. The lecture, entitled Preparing to Parent your Adolescent, covers things from modeling healthy relationships to having the talk.
For parents, it’s an especially hard talk to have because intimacy rightfully occurs outside of your control. Your teenager has to make huge, powerful decisions on their own. Your job is to enable them to make those choices.
A child’s first exposure to intimacy comes from how their parents interact, both verbally and physically. Are they polite to each other? Do they say please and thank you? Do they hug, kiss, or otherwise display affection? Seeing a positive relationship in their home will help your child seek out similar relationships. This is especially critical in a culture that sexualizes all romance.
This also starts with your relationship with them. A child processes love first by how you show it to them: respect, equality, fairness. When they find a partner, they will seek the goodness you showed them.
Puberty isn’t only about emotion and romance, but its health components certainly overlap. This also starts early. Dr. Azevedo discusses how to talk about anatomy with your kids, using scientific terms rather than nicknames. Not only does it keep them better informed, but it makes the later conversation about sex less awkward.
Your child is a reflection of you. They will follow your lead – whether they admit it or not – and they examine their world through your lens.
There’s a popular adage that tells us to “be the person you needed when you were younger.” Think about the things you needed as a kid, whether you got them or not.
Then look in your child’s eyes and give those things to them.
The full talk with Dr. Don Azevedo is available below.