Decision Making

Posted in   Dr. Lanae   on  May 31, 2016 by  Lanae minutes remaining

We make decisions all the time – big and little ones. You made a decision to click on the link to read this blog (thank you for that!). Some decisions have complex thought processes behind them, others not so much. But how much thought do we give to teaching kids the skills for their own decision making? This is something many people seem to overlook. Of course, kids have to make decisions. Some parents want to forget or deny this important point: at some point, our children will have to make decisions about some really challenging things. These things are topics we want to protect them from, like alcohol, drugs, bad friendships, and bad sex. But starting these little decision-making skills when they are young will translate to other more necessary skills they will need for living life once they leave the nest.

Consider the above quote as you think about how to talk to your kids about the difficult subjects of life, including but not limited to sex. How do I interpret this? I have been pretty upfront about lots of different topics, from alcohol to drugs to relationship difficulties.

Without going into a ton of detail here, I’ll share some of what I have discussed with my children. Regarding alcohol, I have included a description of the experience of being drunk, hungover, sick, and a few stories of impaired decision making. I take my kids with me to music festivals from time to time, and we have visited the Dance Safe tent where they also got a fantastic lecture from the young people working the tent about the harm reduction services they offer to festival goers. I also have a real talk with my tweens about what is out there including news stories of young people losing control of their decisions when getting involved with addictive substances like heroin [the station in this link is not entirely clear on that descent, but we used it to begin a conversation]. Relationship difficulties are also really fascinating stories for them as well. I talk with them about different relationship configurations based on movies and TV shows we watch, the various depictions of cheating (what we call “non-consensual non-monogamy” in our house). Sometimes I talk through how some adults handle getting their needs met in and outside of their relationships. They are most fascinated in the ones including recent discussions about how some adults treat honesty after separation or divorce. I share my values and morals with them on these topics too, so they know where I stand.

I can hear my own mother asking me why I would choose to talk about these things with my kids, like, “they’re so innocent. Why would you expose them to such topics?” You may even be thinking to yourself, “OMG, she said all that?” Yes, my kids and I live in a bit of a bubble here in Northern California, but the rest of the world is gritty. It’s messy. I want my kids to be smart, and being prepared and informed is just part of the equation. That we talk about sex related topics too is just one step further. If they weren’t interested, I would dial it back but honestly, my kids are actually engaged and curious about this stuff most of the time.

It’s not hard to talk to kids IRL about where you stand on regular stuff – you’re probably already doing this about some parts of daily life – but how exactly do I mean? I try to put it into context when I can. Think about all you need to factor in when you need to decide something important – buying a car for instance. What helps you make the decision? Would you purchase a car without doing your research ahead of time? Think about sharing what and why you do the prep work you do. How does it feel not to be prepared? Are you the type to have all of the information you need to make a wise choice when it comes time to put your money down? I know I can’t do it without that pre-work.

Help ensure your kids know what your values are about all the things, not just sex. If the sex stuff is too hard to grasp to start with, then try some of these:

from sheknows.com

Work together on getting ready for some smaller decisions now where you can prep them to take over. Ask them to talk you through their thought process so they can be conscious about their choice. Make room for them to make their decisions, especially when they become teenagers. It was really tough for me to do at first given my habit of deciding for them all of those years. Be prepared to think through how to handle your support of them if and when they make mistakes.

Kids will eventually become teens and eventually adults. I know that’s not new news to any of you. The service we can do for them is preparing them for when it is time to hand over some of those decisions.

xxoo

The MamaSutra

About the Author Lanae

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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