Do you remember getting “The Talk?” Do you know when and how to have it with your kids, or what you should say?
Parents are divided on the issue, but most can agree that the Talk seems to be coming much sooner than they remember.
It’s not your imagination.
Children, especially girls, are physically maturing faster than they typically did in previous generations, and boys and girls are also “more sexually aware” at an earlier age, says Tina De Mattia, a Danville-based marriage and family therapist, and a member of our Patch Parent Council.
Many factors, from biology to technology are creating challenges and complexities to adolescence unheard of in our parents’ playbooks.
Technology, specifically, has created a lot of freedom, but it has also given kids more opportunities to get themselves in some tight spots, and immortalizes their decisions—good and bad—potentially for their future employers and spouses to see.
A “friend” in the age of Facebook has also changed the meaning of the word.
Some issues aren’t new, per se, such as struggles with body image. However, “kids are bombarded” now by unrealistic media images, says De Mattia, driving the issue to ever new heights.
Responding to these realities, as well as the troubling behaviors she is observing in her practice and elsewhere, including increasing rates of cutting, eating disorders, and “hyper-sexuality” in girls as young as the sixth grade, De Mattia along with Allyson Mayer, a public school health educator, decided to team up and create a summer workshop series: “Start the Conversation Between You and Your Teen.”
De Mattia says the idea for the series was also sparked by many concerned parents that approached her following a workshop she co-facilitated at this year’s She’s All That! Conference with Mayer, and her mother, Connie Mayer, who is also a longtime marriage and family therapist in Danville.
The parents asked for more guidance, she says, especially when it came to handling issues of sexuality.
Focusing on 13-15 year-old girls, the four-week series covers self-awareness topics for teen girls and their parents, including self-esteem and identity, body image, relationships and boundary building, and a “light” introduction to healthy sexuality, focusing on protection.
De Mattia acknowledges that some parents are concerned about taking on sensitive issues like sexuality at such young ages, but given the current environment, she feels it’s important for parents not “stick their heads in the sand” about these issues and their impact on their kids, nor how much earlier they are becoming an issue.
It’s all around them, and kids hear about it one way or another. It comes down to how do you want them to hear about it; what messages do you want them to hear; and from whom do you want them to hear them?
“The Talk is no longer a talk,” says De Mattia. “It’s learning how to have an ongoing conversation with your child.”
How are you handling the conversation in your family? Do you agree that conversations should start earlier rather than later?
For more information about the Start the Conversation workshops, contact Tina De Mattia, MFT at (415) 302-7155.