Weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS community:
I have spoken to a number of parent groups over the years. Each time, I have tried to offer some practical suggestions to help with the everyday challenges of parenting. The one suggestion I always include is to have ongoing, open and honest conversations with their children about those “uncomfortable” topics: sex and chastity, alcohol and drug use, teen depression and suicide, use of social media, and more.
These topics are uncomfortable on a couple of different levels. First, they are complicated and have many layers. We are uncomfortable talking to our kids about these things because we are not experts. What if they ask me questions and I don’t know the answer? Second, they are such personal topics and we wonder if we are being intrusive and violating our child’s right to privacy. It is easy to say, “Children have no rights. Parents have the responsibility to do whatever it takes to keep their children safe.” True enough, but that does not make these topics any easier to discuss.
I have gotten feedback from some parents who have chosen to be “the uncomfortable parent.” They confirmed that the conversations were indeed uncomfortable. They also said that it was worth it:
- “Sitting down with my child and going through all of his online accounts was uncomfortable for both of us and very eye-opening for me! But after the initial awkwardness, we had a great conversation – and many more great conversations since. We both understand each other a little better.”
- “I was the uncomfortable parent last night. I allowed my son to have a party in our home. I stopped one of his friends on the way into the house with a plastic water bottle (much to my son’s embarrassment). I said simply, ‘We don’t allow outside drinks into our home.’ I discovered the bottle had alcohol in it and called the boy’s parents. The whole incident was uncomfortable, but it has led to some nice discussions with my son – and also for the family of the other boy.”
- “I just put it all out there with my daughter. I admitted to her that I was scared to death and at times felt like I had no idea how to be a parent. I told her I loved her and wanted desperately to protect her – and that my fear comes out of that love. We had a great conversation. She has never been so open with me.”
Feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable is a temporary thing. Our relationship with our children and our concern for their well-being continues on for the rest of our lives.