Focus. My husband teaches photography at a local high school. He repeats over and over instructions on how to get a beautiful, clear picture. He teaches focusing with different kinds of cameras, but he also talks about different points of focus, and how to use elements in the photo to draw the observer’s eye to particular parts of the picture. Using repetition, position, focus, and balancing, a photographer can bring out many different parts of a scene. Parents can do the same thing by addressing tough talks in different ways at different times.
3 Simple Ways to Focus on Tough Talks
- Decide what to teach. It sounds so easy but focusing on a particular subject like responsibility, peer relationships, sex, drugs, and career choices overwhelm parents unless they take them one at a time. Paying attention to the struggles your child and their friends are having, listening to the news, and watching what they are learning at school are all great ways to determine what your child needs right now. But simply making the decision simplifies your focus.
- Find movies, games, book, stories, quotes that bring up the topic of focus. Don’t know what might work? Ask a librarian or your child’s teacher. These people know and love your child and can help you find age appropriate material that will help you bring up an issue.
- Notice and comment about the issues the media brings up. Be curious about what your child thinks of the life choices they see acted out and talk about real life. Take a very open stance on their opinions, but don’t forget to share your own experiences and wisdom within reason.
- Teach one thing at a time. Pick a focus for the month or for the week and stick to it. Even if you simply pick the focus and don’t look for media that goes with it, you can still find lots of opportunities simply by keeping it in the front of your mind.
For example, if your 14 year old is crushing on a boy, watch Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life. Talk about how the main character feels about the girl, how the mother picked her boyfriend, and what could have happened in real life when they snuck out of the house. Watch it together, laugh together and use it to bring up how complicated relationships can be.
Let me give a few cautions. First, parents don’t talk about sex soon enough, typically. Before their first sleepover, you should talk about privacy and be sure they know the names of their body parts. Second, parents give too long an answer and cover the entire topic in one conversation. Take your time! Talk about one issue at a time and simplify it as far as possible. Third, if your child asks a question, be sure you understand exactly what they want to know, and answer it in 10 words or less. Think about it for a while if you have to, but always come back to answering it.
Sounds simple but still overwhelming? Come talk with me about how to have these tough talks with your kids. I don’t have all the answers, but we can discover something that works for you together.