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I am no stranger to boys. I’ve been around them and playing with them my entire life. I’ve now been blessed with 2 myself who are starting into their teenage years. I often have people tell me how polite, well behaved, well rounded, well spoken, well adjusted my kids are and almost just as often get the question “how are you doing that?!” I thought I’d try and answer that question with some things we’ve purposely done as parents from the beginning.
Let me start by saying that I am in NO way an expert. Probably far from it. My kids are in no way perfect. None of us are. We make mistakes, and we apologize for them. My kids apologize to us and we sometimes have to apologize to them. Usually when someone responds with a compliment I think “Yes, but you should see us at home” lol!
These are just some things that I tell friends and family when they ask about having boys and dealing with them getting older (filtered a bit as to not completely embarrass them). Probably the only un-solicited advice I’ll ever give someone is do what works for you and your family. This is just the way WE do it. If you like these I’ll write more (just let me know in the comments) but to start let’s talk about how I got to the point where I can have honest and open conversations with my teenager(s):
Start the open conversations when they are young with age appropriate answers. We started VERY early on answering any question they had with open and honest (but age appropriate) answers. We had lots of very interesting and open talks on the drives to school starting in kindergarten. Everything from food, religion, politics and yes sex too. My oldest is very scientific and wanted information at a young age. In kindergarten he was totally fine with learning about cell division. I knew he was seeking an intelligent scientific answer not necessarily the “birds and the bees” talk (though he did know more about animals at this point because of National Geographic). Now that they are older conversations are less filtered and more honest.
Does this make for some uncomfortable conversations? YES but that’s what we wanted right? I want my boys to know that if they come to me to ask a question about something they heard from their friends, that I’m going to give them the totally honest answer (as uncomfortable as that may be). This is something that I really believe would not be possible if we hadn’t started having these conversations with them at an early age. There is no switch to turn on when these conversations start. That meant purposely starting conversations but also letting them join in on conversations that my husband and I are having. Sometimes they listen and bring up questions or comments later and sometimes they interject with their thoughts while we’re having the conversation. There was little division in “kid conversations” and “adult conversations” in our family. I believe this not only helps them be open to talking with us but helps them conversationally with other adults.
If you have (or remember being) a teenager you know that somewhere along the way your teenage brain thinks you know a LOT more than you do. With that, we have to remind our kids often that just because they feel strongly one way that doesn’t mean that others feel the same or that they are even right. This has started a desire within them to research and learn more, to build their opinions based on facts and information – not from memes they saw on the internet.
Do I think that my kids will come to me with every single problem they have? No. I hope they will but they likely won’t, so besides starting very early with open and honest conversations, I also try to make sure they have honest relationships with adults I trust. Aunts, uncles, grandfathers… we have the luxury of having a great family but we also have people in our lives that we choose to be there – friends from school and friends from church that the boys have developed some (healthy) relationships with.
Thinking back I don’t think I ever answered a question with “you’re too young to know that”. That instantly turns them off and puts up a small portion of a barrier that eventually would be so big they’d stop asking. I tailored answers to their age sometimes giving an answer that might be slightly above what they wanted to hear but important for them to know so they don’t run around using certain phrases. I’d rather my boys know what they really mean than run around school using phrases they think are cool or funny without knowing the true meaning or origin. This comes into play with derogatory words as well.
Basically we started conversations early, are honest with the answers and make sure they have people in their lives they can ask questions that they might not want to ask us (though we haven’t gotten there yet and I’ve answered some very weird questions especially after the 5th grade health class – you know the one).
Do you think your teenage boys can come to you with any question? Do you have advice for other moms on having open conversations with teenage boys?
Note: I am really just in the beginning of this journey but I feel like a ton of parenting is done in the early years. Now it’s helping them navigate becoming who they are, making sure they understand the consequences to the decisions they make and loosening the reigns a little to allow them to make mistakes (hopefully mild ones in the grand scheme of things) and learn from them.