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Parenting advice for difficult conversations

Author James Dunsford
Submitted 15-07-2008

Most fathers can expect to have to talk to their son or daughter about the birds and the bees at some point, usually once their children reach early adolescence.

While this is a necessary task, it is not one most parents relish. The majority of teenagers visibly squirm when their parents mention sex, while moms and dads may not be sure how to broach the subject.

With this in mind, researchers in the US asked 569 parents to attend eight weekly lunch hour sessions on this topic as part of a study published in the British Medical Journal.

In groups of around 15, they learnt how to maneuver around their teenage children’s conversational roadblocks, recognize opportunities for teaching in everyday situations and start conversations on delicate sex-related topics.

For example, in one session parents were taught the skill of "active listening", where they take on board their children’s comments without interrupting or lecturing.

After the sessions, both the mothers and fathers involved and their offspring reported improved communication on sensitive subjects.

Dr Mark Schuster from Harvard Medical School and the Boston Children’s Hospital, who led the research, told Newswise: "Parents are desperate for advice on how to talk with their kids about sex … I get pulled aside in the clinic, at schools, at the park."

"They know it’s important, but their own parents didn’t talk with them, so they don’t know where to begin, he added."

Parenting classes are also springing up across the country to help moms and dads deal with their teenage children at a more general level.