When you’re talking to your kids about embarrassing health issues and other sensitive issues, keep these things in mind:
1. It may be far more embarrassing for you than it is for them, so try to talk in a way that communicates “this is no big deal — nothing to be embarrassed about,” and you will be much more effective. Pretend you are simply talking to your kids about what they had for lunch at school, how their soccer practice went or something else very common and routine.
2. I often use this tactic: I open the conversation with, “Some of your friends might be doing this or that” or “I bet a lot of your friends are starting to talk about X, Y or Z — at least most of my friends were when I was in your grade.” This often serves as a much-needed icebreaker into the topic, and encourages your kids to answer in a way that invites conversation. “Yeah, Susan was talking about that just last week …” or something along those lines.
3. When it comes to matters of puberty or embarrassing body changes, I recommend tackling the subject before it’s actually happening – anywhere from 6 months or a year ahead of time. Talking to them earlier and outlining the changes they can expect will take some of the anxiety out of the entire experience.
For example, girls get breast buds around age 8 or 9, and at that young age, girls might not be as embarrassed about those changes as they would at age 10 or 11. You can explain that over the next year or two, they’ll start noticing their breasts growing a bit, perhaps feeling a little tender – but you can assure them there’s nothing to worry about.
4. Keep the lines of communication open for your children to talk to you. I like to bring up topics in all sorts of conversation with both my high-schooler and my grade-schooler. I’ll bring topics up in the car, at the dinner table — just throw them out there in the middle of other discussions so that it remains a part of the family conversation. I’ll take current events and use them as opportunities to discus topics like teen pregnancy, drug use, etc.
For example, every couple of weeks I’ll ask, “I heard there might be a guest speaker at assembly to talk about the dangers of drugs … wouldn't that be a bummer if you had to drop out of school to go to rehab?" or “Wow – a famous 15-year-old is pregnant. Can you imagine having a baby in your sophomore year in high school?”
Try to create a sense that these subjects are not taboo; they’re not a big deal to talk about, and in fact, they should be talked about.