Sex and drugs are arguably two of the most difficult topics to bring up with your child. While it's not weird to feel uncomfortable or to even want to avoid the topics altogether, remember that a 12-year-old is almost guaranteed to hear about drugs and sex from her peers. Addressing these issues early might make it easier for your child to come to you with questions or if problems should arise.
Taking the Initiative
Don't wait until it's too late to talk about drugs and sex with your preteen. In a perfect world, your child would come to you with questions as they arise, but in most cases, this doesn't happen. Preteens already feel awkward and uncomfortable because of bodily changes, social concerns and emotional issues -- and most won't raise the issues of sex or drugs with their parents unless they have a really good reason to do so. According to the organization Talking with Kids About Tough Issues, a national campaign by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation, it's absolutely fine -- and even advisable -- to be the first to bring up these difficult topics.
Do Your Homework
You might think you know almost everything there is to know about sex and drugs -- you've been there, done that. But times change -- kids are experimenting with drugs, sex and other risky behaviors at earlier and earlier ages. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some children are already abusing drugs by age 12 or 13. And according to Planned Parenthood, kids are often sexually active earlier than most parents think. Read up on information about sex and drugs from trusted resources like Planned Parenthood or the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If your child has questions, you'll want to have as many answers as possible.
Avoid the Awkwardness
You might not relish the idea of discussing sex and drugs with your 12-year-old, but that doesn't mean you should tiptoe around the issues either. If your child senses that you feel anxious or uncomfortable, he might feel like there's something wrong or taboo with the topics. But you don't want to be too direct either -- you probably won't get a lot from your child if you sit down and say "we need to talk," says Dr. Atilla Ceranoglu, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School in an interview with GreatSchools.org. Try to bring up the conversation naturally, should such moments arise. NHS Choices suggests bringing it up in a natural manner if possible, such as when the topics pop up on TV.
Leave the Door Open
Listen to your child if she wants to share information about her experiences. Encourage her to ask questions. You might be prepared for a barrage of questions, but the chances could be that your 12-year-old simply listens to what you have to say, shrugs her shoulders, says "OK" and walks away. But encouraging questions -- either during your conversation or at a later date -- shows your child you're approachable. It also lets her know she can come to you any time if she needs to talk to you about her experiences. Let her know you're always there -- she'll be more likely to tell you the truth than to just tell you what you want to hear, says NHS Choices.
- Talking with Kids: How to Talk to Your Kids About Anything
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
- Planned Parenthood: Talking to Kids about Sex and Sexuality
- GreatSchools.org: Talking to Your Middle-Schooler: The Top-Three Mistakes Parents Make
- NHS Choices: Talking About Drugs with Your Child
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images