When Responsibility.org first approached me about working together, I thought my kids (and probably the kids of most of my readers) were too young, since their programs center on alcohol responsibility.
But after talking with them, I realized Responsibility.org‘s goal is to help parents model positive behavior to promote good decision making in their kids, so when discussions about peer pressure and underage drinking come up, they’re already one step ahead. They want parents of young kids to start a lifetime of honest and positive conversations around tough topics.
Mazzy is five and just starting to talk to me about serious stuff. What qualifies as serious? Mainly issues that are popping up around relationships with her friends. Someone ignoring her on the bus, not having a partner during music class because her two closest friends teamed up with each other or a classmate calling her out as being greedy, when she didn’t know what that meant.
I’m happy she is coming to me with this stuff, because I can tell she’s a little hesitant about bringing it up and is thinking extra hard about how to explain these new dynamics. My main objective is always to approach these conversations in a way that is beneficial and comforting to her, since I obviously want to continue to be her source for a combination of support, love and good advice.
We’ve also talked about kissing because she has a “boyfriend” and I wanted her to know that physical affection is usually reserved for family and very special people. This is a tricky one because as a parent you have to find the balance between setting restrictions and making something sound too forbidden, because that could increase her interest and at the same time, make it something she’ll think she has to do in secret.
It’s actually very similar to how you have to think about alcohol— something she sees her parents drink on occasion but also knows is off limits to her. I don’t think she’s ever thought about why. She probably puts wine in the same category as coffee and hasn’t given it much thought beyond that, but maybe keeping her in the dark about the effects of alcohol isn’t the best strategy going forward.
In any case, I’m learning and willing to listen to an organization that can give me tips on how to start these conversations and approach them when they come up on their own. I believe tips on becoming a trusted source and confidant for your kids will help with every tough topic— bullying, sex, drinking, racism, sexuality, gun control and everything else that parents have a responsibility to discuss with their kids at some point before they make big decisions for themselves.
One of the most important gateways to having important conversations with your kids is recognizing when and where these conversations are most likely to take place. For us, there are two times we are one-on-one and Mazzy seems to open up. The first is en route to school. We take the public bus together every morning and when their aren’t other kids from school riding along with us, we have a solid 20 minutes of one-on-one time.
The other time is more intimate and the time when she usually brings up things that upset her during the day. That’s right before bed. I have a sneaking suspicion this is because she knows if she brings something upsetting up, I will be less likely to leave the room. It’s a bedtime stalling tactic, for sure. But it doesn’t matter to me if she’s being manipulative, because it’s still her confiding in me and it gives me the opportunity to say the right thing so she’ll come to me again.
From my discussions with other parents, it seems many of them have different times of day when they have real conversations with their kids. Some have said it happens over dinner time, some in the carpool from school to soccer practice and sometimes things come up at totally random times of day, like if you happen to pass a protest on the street— something that happened to Mazzy and I recently.
Today, I am looking for four moms or dads to feature in a series about talking early. We’ll send a photographer to your town to photograph you in a one-on-one moment you have with your child— like before bed or on the drive home from school. I’ll interview the participants about conversations that have come up and how they handle them, and then Responsibility.org will give tips on how to take advantage of these moments, how to bring up serious topics and how to answer uncomfortable questions, especially when it pertains to alcohol.
To enter, just leave a comment below with the ages of your kids (5 and up only), your home town and the time of day (bedtime, dinner, drive home from school, etc.) you are most likely to have a serious conversation with your child. If you’d like to include the topics that have come up so far or what you are most worried about addressing, I think that could lead to some interesting discussions.
My hope is that by the end of the series we will all have a better understanding on how to set ourselves up to be the person our children come to when they have something serious on their minds.
And when they do, we will have a much better idea of how to handle it right.
This post was sponsored by Responsibility.org but all thoughts and opinions are my own.