Tough Talks with Your Kids

Parents know there will be some tough conversations with kids in the future. But that future might be closer than you think.

  • The youngest death from vaping so far was a 15 year old. 15 to 17 year olds are more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults.
  • 7,315 American girls between 10 and 14 years of age gave birth in 2002. For girls 15 to 19, Arkansas has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, at 30.4 births per 1,000 girls.
  • According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the average age of first use of marijuana is now 14, and alcohol use can begin by age 12.

Tough talks about sex, drugs, and smoking or vaping can’t wait till your child’s 18th birthday. Waiting until your child brings up the subject may leave it too late.

Teachable moments

You don’t have to wait until it’s time for a Big Talk. When you give your child a baby aspirin, you can talk about why you use medications and why they should not accept medications from other people.

If you see someone smoking in a movie when your child is present, you can mention the negative health effects of smoking and vaping. 

These early conversations help lay the groundwork for more serious conversations later on.

Having hard conversations

Take the opportunity to start those difficult conversations when you and your child are together and the subject comes up on TV, in song lyrics, or as news. It won’t be easy, but it’s often easier for parents than for kids to bring up tricky subjects.

  • Find out what your child already knows. Asking a few questions can give you an idea of how much information your child already has. This helps you decide how much information you should share. Too much information can be overwhelming to kids who aren’t yet ready to understand all the details.
  • Use words you are comfortable with, but also make sure your child understands the terms you use. 
  • Stay calm and stick with facts. Look up information together if you’re not sure about the answers to your kids’ questions.
  • Share your opinions and feelings and your values. However, the more open-ended and nonjudgemental your questions and answers, the more likely it is that your kids will continue the conversation. Ask questions like, “What would you do if someone tried to pressure you into using drugs like they did in that show?” or “What do you think about the way this ad portrays relationships between men and women?”
  • Make it clear that your kids can always come to you if they want to discuss these topics more in the future. 

Ask your pediatrician

You can ask your pediatrician for advice in these situations. Certainly, if you worry that your child may be involved in risky behavior, your pediatrician can be a good resource.

Your pediatrician is your partner in parenting. Pediatricians have extensive experience with many of the things that worry parents. You can benefit from their experience.