The infamous teen years are generally accepted as a tumultuous time for parents and teenagers alike, with puberty acting as the catalyst for growth spurts, temper tantrums and the dreaded ‘talk’. But, daunting as the thought may be, teenologist (yes, it’s a thing) Sarah Newton says there’s no need to feel awkward about discussing puberty with your children.
“When we refer to the ‘(Teen) Talk’, we mean the conversation between parents and teens as they go through the puberty. Puberty is a real rite of passage for both parents and teenagers, and parents can often feel as confused and unsure about how to approach this as teens.”
“It’s important to show your child support and provide the help and guidance they need. Giving them an understanding of what to expect as they go through this time in their lives will make them feel more prepared and at ease, making the dreaded years a breeze for you both! It’s also important that you honour this important time for them and let them know you care.”
With over 17 years’ experience of working in teen development, it’s safe to say that – when it comes to ‘the talk’ – Sarah has heard it all. Here, she offers her top tips on how to navigate those awkward conversations with confidence.
Parents can get just as embarrassed as their teens when it comes to having the teen talk. In fact, recent research by P&G and Boots found that 68% of parentsfound it difficult to approach puberty topics with their teens, so much so that a quarter choose to avoid the conversation altogether.
“This is simply because so many aren’t sure about how to approach the conversation and so that’s why campaigns like #TeenTalk are so important, to ensure we are all armed with the tips, tools and ability to have the talk with confidence.”
2. Find a hook
It can be difficult to find the right time or place to talk about sensitive subjects with your teen, so using a certain on-trend topic as a hook to get the ball rolling can really help.
“Find something that has been in the media recently that you can hook [the talk] to; maybe it’s an lnstagram post you’ve seen, or something you’ve read or heard about, or an advert. Puberty is always in the spotlight in some way. Use these things you find as a hook to start the conversation and let it lead from there.”
This will help take the pressure off yourself, and your specific conversation. this doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to know it all and get it all right, you just need to start the conversation.
3. Follow their lead
Always ensure that your child is comfortable with the situation, taking into account the ways in which you can make the experience more positive for them.
“Ask your child how they would best like to have this conversation. Let them know it is important for you to have it but ask them what is best for them, for example would they like to go somewhere other than the house, would they like some information first, then the talk? Whatever works well for them? If your child is more introvert and quiet in nature they may prefer to research first and ask questions, rather than have this be the full-blown conversation that a more gregarious child may be happy with.”
4. Get support
Remember that this is something that all parents go through – meaning that you most likely know somebody who can help you out when you’re feeling uncertain.
“If you are finding starting this conversation difficult, then be sure to get some for yourself. This could be a friend or a family member that you can talk to who can give you good constructive advice is always helpful. There are also lots of websites you can visit to extend your own knowledge to ensure your armed with help, tips and facts.”
5. Be honest
Being honest and open about your own experiences and feelings is key. If you are finding the situation challenging, say so; you don’t have to have all the answers here, you are just the facilitator of the conversation.
“Be truthful and let your child know your intentions and how you are feeling and they’ll be more likely to open up to you in the same way. This is a team effort, not a top-down conversation, so start as you mean to go on and the relationship will continue to flourish.”
Tailor your topics. Each conversation will be different and should be covered in accordance to how your teen is feeling and what they are experiencing and going through at the time. You may cover periods one day, shaving another, body order and oral hygiene another.
Conversation is ongoing. It doesn’t just happen once then stop. Start talking openly about puberty as early as you can and answer your child’s questions honestly when they ask them. The sooner you can start, the better and the less awkward it becomes later on.
Don’t be too serious. While this may be an important conversation, it doesn’t have to be serious. Lighten the conversation as much as you can, it will put both of you at ease.
The Boots #TeenTalk campaign with P&G offers a handy guide available to take away from Boots UK stores or download online here.