These pages are a key part of this book. All children are exposed to things. Many children have things happen to them. Most children don’t talk to their parents. Why? They feel fear, shame, and have no idea how the conversation is going to go. These pages tell children exactly how that safe conversation is going to go and set it all up ahead of time so children know exactly what to expect. This is done by simultaneously teaching both children and parents what to do. Children then know how to approach their parents, and their parents know how to respond in a way that will invite safety and reduce shame and fear. Because the point of the book is to initiate and continue conversations about healthy sexuality, creating a safe space to have those discussions is paramount and that takes work on both sides of the relationship.
- Have I ever reacted in a way that was not like this? Yes? I was pretty sure I had. (This may be a reaction to a completely unrelated topic that inadvertently made your child feel like they couldn’t always share). Remember how the book said that making mistakes and fixing them is a part of figuring things out? Did you know that parents still make mistakes too? I’m sorry for reacting in a way that made you feel like you didn’t want to share hard things. I’m learning how to be better while I’m reading this book with you, and I’m going to try to be like the book says all the time, so you can always feel like you can share with me. I do always love you, even when you make mistakes. And do you know what? You can help me out. If I ever react in a way that doesn’t feel comfortable, or makes you feel bad, will you tell me? Then I can change right in that moment and be the way you need me to be. (In full disclosure, I’ve also needed to have these discussions with my kids, so we are all imperfect and feeling this out. And from personal experience, this invitation will quickly cover many more areas than discussions of healthy sexuality, so be prepared to be called on unhealthy parenting reactions across the board!)
- When you have something hard to talk to me about, will you be brave and talk to me anyway? What will you do to get up your courage and be brave?
- Did you know that I love you no matter what? Did you know that one of the times I love you the most is when you come talk to me when you’ve made a mistake? It’s because you have to make mistakes to learn and grow, and I’m proud of you for learning and growing up!
- Did you know that I love you no matter what? Did you know that one of the times I love you the most is when you come talk to me when you’re nervous or uncomfortable. It makes my heart so happy to see what a big boy/girl you are when you choose to be brave.
- It makes me feel so close to you when you come to me so that I can help you figure things out. How do you feel when we figure things out together as a team?
- You may have a discussion with your child about a specific phrase or word they could say that could alert you to a conversation they want to have that they feel uncomfortable about, or nervous about your reaction toward. This can alert you to putting yourself in a safety-creating frame of mind, and help you if you need to reschedule the conversation for any reason (you’re late to get your preschooler, or your teenager just backed the car into the mailbox, your boss is chewing you out on the phone, etc). You can reschedule, prioritize, and have the conversation in a way that helps your child know they are loved and will be heard. Normally I encourage parents not to associate talks about healthy sexuality with a special set aside time (sending the message instead that these topics can be discussed at any time), but uncomfortable disclosures often need to feel safe and private, so some of these phrases reflect that space. Phrases/words can be whatever the two of you come up with:
- I’m having a hard time.
- Can we have a chat?
- Will you love me no matter what? (This invites the safe space)
- Can we have a special time?
Things you may choose to say to your child when they come to you:
- Thank you so much for coming to me to talk about this. It makes me feel good that you love and trust me with your questions/worries/concerns.
- Do you feel nervous or worried? Wow—I’m so proud of you for being brave and talking to me anyway.
- You are being a rockstar at learning and growing up right now.
- Did you make a mistake? Sounds like you’re learning and growing up—that means you’re half-way there! Now all we need to do is figure out the fixing it part. We can work on that together. What do you think would be best?
- I love that you talk to me!
- We are a good team. I’m glad you picked me to be on your team with you.
- How did [the situation] make you feel? (Feelings and intuition are a great protection. Teach your child not to discount their feelings. Sharing your own feelings can be helpful. Remember they might have felt “good” and also shame/fear, etc. Help them pull those feelings apart and identify why they felt each. Additionally, if a difficult situation has occurred, remember that children often share information little by little as they feel safe.)