It is predominantly every parent’s dream to raise a child that acts responsibly and make social moral choices. Children also want to stay out of trouble and do awesome things in life.
While they are trying to create certain understandings of what is right and wrong as well as what is expected from them, they may ask uncomfortable questions.
It is widely common that many children are raised in settings that dictate behaviour at home and create an environment where subjects of sexuality, addiction and drug abuse – to mention a few – are avoided or even considered taboo.
The silence is affected by cultural differences in practices and beliefs. It is also sometimes motivated by spiritual aspects.
Discrepancies between what children know and what parents believe they know have created a hesitation to initiate sensitive topics. Parents are often better at providing information about the facts of life without going beyond the surface to justify specific behaviours.
Tough and sensitive topics are sometimes stopped or diverted. When children question certain issues, they may be labelled as rebellious.
As children mature, they begin to look for affirmation – and sometimes find themselves doing things because of shame.
They sometimes also start to form their moral codes and explore different identities. Issues surrounding body changes and age also make them emotional. It, therefore, requires a degree of friendliness and the ability to tolerate difficult questions during this time.
Avoiding them will not make them go away. Children will rather learn certain things elsewhere – and family values may be tested. Ignoring them may also cause misconceptions or make children embarrassed and afraid of physical and emotional changes.
Parental confidence in speaking with children about sensitive topics should be encouraged. It is important to answer all potential difficult questions so that children can make sense of them and integrate the experience into the broader context of wellbeing.
No matter how hard children push their parents’ buttons, it is best to respond. Parents should talk to their children about the lifelong consequences of the choices they make. They should balance open communication through guiding and not controlling. This should be done by giving reasonable choices and not cutting off future options.
Children should gain a holistic understanding in terms of the origin of values, beliefs and attitudes that are passed down to them through discussions of sensitive topics in their social settings.
It should be noted that there is no universal context for all children and parents. Families should, therefore, handle sensitive subjects in a way that is consistent with their values.
Children need to be educated in the values of every society thoroughly just as they are guided academically. While parents are practising this, they should also consider the age groups. Answer the early questions while controlling information overload.
•Saara Meke Amakali is an Industrial Psychology and Sociology graduate. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org