When you had a child, you knew it wouldn’t always be easy. You knew that there would be difficult moments. You knew there would be tasks you’d rather hand over to someone else but can’t. And you knew these moments would happen more often than not.
And it’s not all about changing nappies and dealing with a crying newborn. That’s where it starts but definitely not where it ends.
You see, as your child gets older, there will many difficult conversations you have to have with them. You can rely on school to teach them the basics but you need to ensure they have the right information and not just what they can pick up from Google.
And then there are conversations that are personal and should happen between you and your child:
1. Explaining death and the loss of a loved one
This is inevitable. Someone in your child’s life will eventually die. And while you may be able to tell them that their pet rabbit went to live on a farm, you can’t lie to them about what happened to granny or grandpa. There will come a time when you have to sit your little one down and explain that someone has died. And it will never be easy. Explaining the concept of death is complicated.
2. Discussing diversity and racism
Racism exists, especially in South Africa. Your young one won’t know this. Children aren’t born with these ideas.
But they will be exposed to them as they grow up and you need to teach them that diversity is important and bigotry and racism are harmful. Inform them of the history of this country and why it’s necessary for them to ignore or stand up against any hate speech they hear or are subjected to.
You never know what they may encounter on a daily basis and you want them to feel safe and not take to heart anything that may be said to hurt them or anyone else. Your child needs to know the importance of love – feeling loved and accepted, and loving and accepting others.
3. Telling them that you and their other parent are divorcing
Before you tell your friends and parents, before you start dividing your assets, before you even start with the process of divorce in South Africa, you need to tell your children.
This will be one of the hardest things they’ll ever have to hear. Their home life and family, everything they know, is about to change. And that’s going to be horrible for them, which is why you need to explain it in the best way possible.
You should tell them together with your partner. They need to know that even though your romantic relationship is ending, you’re both still their parents
And by the time you inform them of the decision, you should already have a plan of how you’re going to live as a family going forward. Are you going to split custody or will the child live with one of you for the majority of the time and spend every weekend or second weekend with the other? They’re going to need structure in their life now more than ever before.
4. Giving them the sex talk
You may be tempted to leave the sex talk up to their life orientation teacher. But they will hear things on the playground long before they’re taught about sex by a teacher. And that information won’t be correct.
You obviously want your child to have the right information from the very beginning, and not to be surprised when they actually learn about it later on. You’d be shocked at what children say about sex when they’re whispering it to each other at break time.
So, when you realise your child is reaching the age when they may be curious about their bodies and how it all works, do your research and sit them down. You want them to feel like they can come to you with any questions. Which is why you need to be calm and open when talking to them. They should know that sex is nothing to be embarrassed about.
5. Listening to your teen come out to you
If your child comes home one day and tells you that they’re gay, you need to be more supportive than you’ve ever been before. This is when they need your love the most.
It is not something that is easy for them to do and they’re probably terrified of what your reaction may be. This is a very sensitive topic for them and you need to make sure they know just how much you love them and that you have no problem with their sexuality.
Your number one priority should be ensuring they feel supported and understood.