Tip #2: Be an Askable Adult
As a parent, guardian, or caregiver, you want to be the first person to teach your child about the important things in life. You also want to be the first person your child comes to when they have questions or concerns. Whether it’s teaching them how to cross a street or navigate puberty, you want to be there for them. To be this trusted source of information and guidance, you will need to demonstrate that you are an “askable adult.” That means that you are a safe and welcoming person…no matter what!
Characteristics of Askable Adults
Askable adults have several characteristics that they value and practice. You can develop these characteristics if you want to be an askable adult for your child.
- Know yourself. Assess your own values, beliefs, attitudes, and experiences first. Once you understand yourself, you can decide which values, attitudes, and information you want to pass on to your child. Discard anything that doesn’t serve you and your child well.
- Be available. When your child talks, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. If it’s a bad time, tell them when you will be ready to listen.
- Listen actively. Listen with your eyes and your whole body. Hear the feelings behind their words. Seek to understand your child instead of preparing your response in your mind.
- Stay calm. Take slow deep breaths as you listen. Remind yourself that your child trusts you enough to ask you about something. That doesn’t mean they are doing that something they are asking about.
- Focus on the music. Communicate with a positive tone of support, acceptance, and openness. Your child will remember your music even if they don’t remember your words.
- Admit feelings. Whatever feelings you are having—embarrassment, shock, surprise, fear—admit it. Your child will sense your feelings anyway. If you don’t name your feelings, your child might think you are angry at them for talking about the topic.
- Answer honestly. Compose an answer that is simple, clear, and honest. Include facts and values. If you need more time to think, say so. If you don’t know the answer, find it.
- Welcome more. Whatever your child has brought up, always end the conversation with two messages: “Thank you for talking with me,” and “I’m happy to talk again any time.”
How many of these characteristics have you mastered? Which ones would you like to focus on improving?
We can all use a little support and guidance when we talk with our children about puberty, sex, and relationships. These are some helpful resources to add to your preparations:
- Are You an ”Askable Adult”? Puberty: The Wonder Years
- What stops us from talking to our children about tough topics? Amazing Me
- Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person about Sex by Deborah Roffman
- “Why Sexuality Education Is an Important Part of a Safety Plan,” Stop It Now!
- “Why Students Need Sex Education That’s Honest About Racism,” Rewire News
- Sexual Orientation: A Spectrum of Attraction, Amaze
- Family Acceptance Project