The following is a guest post by Michelle Newbold. She is the mother of four great kids and the wife of one great husband. She highlights an excellent tool that parents can utilize in helping their kids transition into adolescence. Read on...
Two things have always frightened me about parenting. One, potty training. Two, teenagers. Being a mom of four children, I am pleased to say I have made it through the potty training era and am moving on to dealing with teenagers. My oldest turns 13 in a couple of weeks. I guess the reason the teenage years are so scary for parents is that our culture makes those years sound daunting. Television and movies portray teenagers as out of control and parents throwing their hands up and giving up in despair. Then there's the whole, "birds and the bees talk," which the media also portrays as an impossible task that never goes like the parent planned.
In our home, we decided to start having "mini-discussions" with our girls when the time came for it. Our goal has been to provide needed information at appropriate times. We also wanted to be the ones to explain things to our kids and not have them learning about these issues from friends. Or, receiving misinformation from friends or media! Since our oldest three children are daughters, our plan was for me to have these discussions with them and then my husband would handle their brother when it is his turn.
At first, these discussions were focused mostly on a brief description of where babies come from and on physical changes occurring in the body. I kept the initial discussions very brief and on topic. Then I mentioned that we can talk anytime and left the door open for future mini-talks as needed. There have been several times she has approached me with a question. I try not to act shocked at whatever she wants to talk about, and just answer the question in a matter-of-fact way.
Finally, I decided to have a more prolonged interaction with her to cover a broad variety of topics. I selected the material created by Focus on the Family entitled, Preparing for Adolescence. These CDs were recorded by Dr. James Dobson as he taught first his daughter, and then other teenagers on the coming adolescent years. We used the CD set and the "Family Guide and Workbook". I also plan to buy the book eventually for her to keep as a reference. The book is basically the main words that Dobson says on the cd's.
We planned some extended time together over a weekend. My husband took the other kids out of town and we hung out at home. We listened to the CD and took turns filling in the blanks in the Family Guide. We stopped the CD and chatted about things as needed. What I really liked about the program is that it didn't just cover "the birds and the bees", but also covered topics that teenagers need to be aware of and prepared for. I also loved the way Dr. Dobson talked straight to the teenager as a trusted friend and adviser.
The program began with dealing with feelings of inferiority as a teen. There are three things that cause feelings of inferiority: physical attractiveness, intelligence and money. I remember my middle school years as being filled with these same feelings, just as he describes. Dr. Dobson then goes on to tell the teenager how to focus on what you can change and accept the things you can't change.
Next, he covers dealing with peer pressure in today's culture. He talks about the difference between conforming to the world and being a leader and being willing to stand.
The next topic is an explanation of physical development, puberty and sexual intercourse. He covers these briefly, but with enough detail that is is clear.
He then covers the meaning of love. He defines what is true love and what is infatuation. He talks about the effects of divorce and sex outside of marriage. He covers the importance of purity before marriage.
Throughout the course, he hits on other topics such as misconceptions people have about love and marriage, STDs, unplanned pregnancies, abortion, suggested length of courtships, genuine love is selfless, conflicts between the generations, desire or independence from parents, peer pressure, drugs, communication with parents, dating, and image issues. Finally, there is a section with teens asking him questions and he answers them.
What is not covered in this material is the subject of pornography and the importance of internet safety. I think this is because the CDs were recorded years ago, before the growth of the internet. We have had separate discussions regarding this.
The only controversial point on the CDs is that Dr. Dobson takes a lenient stand on what Barrett Johnson (at the INFO for Families blog) refers to as the "m"-word. He doesn't want there to be guilt and shame in a teenager's life. I wonder if Dr. Dobson would feel that way if the current statistics on boys and pornography were available when he recorded these CD's.
Otherwise, I found it to be perfect for us. It filled in the gaps that our "little conversations" had not covered. It also added a lot of stuff about feeling weird and inferior and taking a stand in the world that were great and really spoke to the emotional issues that a teenager faces. After we finished the study, we went out for a special meal and I presented my daughter with a purity ring. We signed a contract together stating her commitment remain pure until marriage and my commitment to support her in that regard.
What about you? Have you made plans to have some talks with your kids? I have found that small mini-talks really take the pressure off having the huge "birds and the bees" conversation. Make plans today to cover these important issues with your kids!