As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Dexter has just turned 13. An official teenager. But I would say that it’s felt like he’s been a teenager for a lot longer. (A lot, LOT longer.) I think these days, children mature a lot quicker, and I suppose, as a lone parent, I not only have to have all ‘the chats’ with him, but I take all the flak too.
However, I should point out that overall, he’s a great kid, and anything that’s thrown my way isn’t something I haven’t already dealt with in one way or another with his older brother, but I think second time round, I’m a lot more relaxed about most things, so we tend to get on. For the most part. But if I find one more dirty plate in his room, he’s going to live in the shed.
One thing that has remained the same though with both boys, is the utter embarrassment (that is me in general), but especially whenever I deign to mention things like puberty. I find it quite amusing, but it’s really not my intention to make light of anything – it’s just that sometimes, being lighthearted about these things is the only way they’ll listen … as opposed to sitting them down for A Serious Chat. Research by Boots UK and P&G shows that 68% of parents find it difficult to approach puberty topics with their teen, so much so that a quarter avoid the #TeenTalk entirely, so I’m not alone. And I’m really aware that as they don’t/didn’t have a dad to speak to, it’s important they feel they can talk to me about anything. That’s not always easy when it comes to things like S-E-X, but I’ve always found that as long as I come across as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to talk about (whilst dying a little inside), they’ll end up feeling comfortable enough to ask me questions in the future.
In fact, I always found that the worst thing to do would be to sit them down for serious chats, and that chatting whilst being their personal chauffeur (*rolls eyes*) seems to work best. The focus isn’t solely on them and you can just ‘casually’ begin a conversation about school, girls or that dreaded P word, puberty. That is the one thing guaranteed to have Dexter running out of the room, but the more nonchalant I am about the whole subject, the less ‘cringed out’ he gets.
Take this week. I have started to leave a box of Tampax in the bathroom (it’s a new thing for me, so not something he’s used to), and he actually asked if I could move them so he didn’t have to see them every time he went to the loo. I had to laugh, but I just said, ‘One day, you’re going to have a girlfriend that’s going to be using these, you need to get used to stuff like that,” … and then kept them exactly where they were. It’s all about normalising these things I think.
I’m conscious I’m raising another boy into a man, without a man by my side, and that’s a big responsibility, but looking at my eldest son, I like to think I’ll do just fine. I want my boys to be respectful of girls, and women, and everything that that entails. I want them to be feminists, like I am, and that’s definitely something I’m very passionate about, so it’s a constant work in progress isn’t it? Raising children into the adults you want them to be … but I believe talking is the key to it all. Whether it’s about the slightly embarrassing topics of periods and sex, to the bigger subjects of relationships and how we should treat each other as humans, communication is paramount.
Until 6th June, Boots is offering great value promotions on trusted P&G products, which makes it easier for teens to trial the products that might be right for them. These include Venus, Always, Tampax, Gillette and Head & Shoulders, and I think doing that together is a great conversation opener – something fun to do together that will hopefully open up an avenue of discussion about the bigger picture teens face.
I’m working in a paid relationship with Boots UK, P&G and BritMums on their #TeenTalk campaign, which aims to help parents be more confident in talking with their teens. Get additional advice and tips, and learn about special offers on trusted products on the Boots #TeenTalk site. Go in-store and get your free ‘teentalk’ guide at Boots when you buy any Tampax, Always, Aussie or Venus product until the 6th June.