“Mom, what’s the ‘p’ word?”
Yes, that “p” word. Straight from the mouth of a presidential candidate and into the ears of news audiences worldwide. As the mother of two young boys ages 9 and 12, I find that coarse language always seems slightly more noticeable when they’re in the room. I cringed. It was the last thing I wanted my 9-year-old to hear, but I was pleased he felt comfortable coming to me for answers. Since I’m CEO of the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, we have some very open conversations in our household.
I told him the truth. I explained what the word means and why we don’t use it. I kept my cool, making sure he understood what he was hearing, leaving room for questions. This election has been like nothing we have seen before. Shocking headlines have saturated our online world and TV screens, leaving our children unprotected. Parents are caught at a crossroad between raising well-informed young people and guarding their innocence. So, what do you do when your child asks, “What’s the ‘p’ word?”
At the campaign, we offer a list of tips for parents that help begin conversations about love, sex and relationships in age-appropriate ways. Issues we’ve seen in this election can sometimes lead to these discussions. Tip No. 7, “be honest,” is one of the most important and the one I employed when responding to my own son. It’s vital our young people know our answers can be trusted instead of relying on what they read on social media or hear in the school cafeteria.
Tip No. 3, “create an open dialogue,” helped my family get to this point. We normalize conversations about love, sex and relationships. Letting my children know their questions are not embarrassing or weird ensures when the time is right, we’ll be able to discuss anything from first crushes to staying safe.
Tip No. 9, “use teachable moments,” was also instrumental. Using everyday situations is the easiest way to start approaching these sensitive topics. When the opportunity presents itself, the best thing to do as a parent or trusted adult is seize it. My son’s innocent curiosity opened the door for us to share family values (tip No. 5) and make use of current events.
We call October Let’s Talk Month, encouraging parents and trusted adults to start sometimes uncomfortable conversations with their youth about love, sex and relationships. Who knew a political election would create the opening for families to do just that?
If you’re thinking about starting “the talk,” don’t hesitate. Your children need reliable information to make healthy decisions for their future from someone they can trust. Let that person be you.
Visit NotRightNowSC.org/parent-teen for more tips on starting conversations about love, sex and relationships.
Beth De Santis
CEO, S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy