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IMPARTING VALUES

Informative facts provided to adolescents should be accompanied by talking about your family values, which in fact help form their attitudes towards sex. This step is most difficult, because your values will often seem to be at odds with your daughter's, especially during her teen years.

Values with regard to issues like smoking and drinking, dating, inviting boys home, the right age to be in any kind of a physical relationship, to have sexual intercourse, pornography, homosexuality, etc. though very difficult to talk about in our society, especially with our own children, need to be discussed and explored. By talking about these issues, you will be able to convey to your daughter what is desirable behaviour in these matters, at the same time transferring yours, and your family's values to her. But you must be wondering how does one impart values to one's child? One can talk about the facts of life, about do's and don'ts, but values?

Casually and conversationally would be our suggestion. You can do this with your daughter while chatting with her about her friends or her seniors in school, something either of you read or heard about, or a film you saw, about anything. For instance, while talking to her, you can ask your daughter what she feels about girls who wear revealing clothes. Or share your concern about your friend's young daughter who was rumored to have undergone an abortion. Listen to your daughter's reactions and you may learn a lot about her values. If you disagree with her, tell her what you think and why. A vociferous debate may ensue, but if you can present your arguments effectively, she may be impressed by an alternate set of thoughts and corresponding values, different from her friend’s, hitherto not thought of. By and by, you may be able to influence your daughter's thinking. It may also be highly probable that your daughter does not adopt your values. But you would have certainly made her more aware as she forms her own ideas and attitudes, during her confused, adolescent years. Imagine the consequence if you are unable to talk to her, and she imbibes only what her peer group prescribes.

A friend shared yet another approach with us. As a young girl she used to eagerly look forward to her nightly after dinner walks with her mother, when they would chat about the day, talk and gossip about friends, family, neighbours, about plans for the future, about anything that concerned either of them. The young daughter said that she would feel so good and so mature, to be her mother's confidante. It was only much later that she realized how her mother was using these moments to convey myriad messages to her - about growing up, conducting oneself appropriately, that there was a right time for everything, that one could be friends with boys, but keeping a distance helped, till you were sure about who you wanted to be close to, etc, etc. This friend, who today is a young mother herself, feels that without really realizing it, she must have understood and imbibed the right values at the right time, thanks to her mother's non-intrusive, non combative approach.

Values can also be explicated or conveyed by setting rules for your adolescent. In fact, family rules, which will typically reflect your family's values, must be established from early on, and must be consistently applied to all family members. These rules will enable the children to know what their boundaries are and the kind of behaviour that is expected of them.

Many a parent starts by setting rules pertaining to play time, study time, TV time, bed time, etc. As your daughter approaches adolescence, rules about being out with friends, when and where she can go, kind of clothes she can wear, use of cosmetics, visiting or inviting friends home may perhaps need to be established. A further couple of years down, your daughter may need rules related to late nights, not traveling alone at night, dating, smoking and drinking. At various times, your adolescent will disagree with you, considering you to be old fashioned and a spoilsport and rebel against these rules. And yet at another level, she will seek these value based guidelines to navigate her through some of the most tumultuous times of her life. It must however be reiterated that as your daughter matures and becomes more independent, rules can be successfully applied if they are established jointly by both you and your child, and are regularly reviewed and altered.

While communicating about values related to sex, it is also very important to talk to young people about the consequences of being sexually active. The hard truth about unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases must be communicated. Though your daughter may think she knows a great deal, and you also believe that due to high levels of exposure, young people are well informed these days, facts belie this premise. Apparently, ignorance is rampant amongst youngsters, who based on this misinformation, act on their impulses, soon to discover the disastrous consequences.

Prior to imparting values to your daughter, it will be easier if you as a mother have sorted out your values yourself and examined its relevance in today's context. For instance, while you may feel that dating with different partners is not acceptable, your college going daughter sees nothing amiss in it. After all she is just out with her male buddies! It is also advisable to avoid any contradictory messages being conveyed by discussing them with your husband, before the questions or situations arise.

Some things to watch out for as you educate your daughter about sex. One aspect you will have to recognize is that sex and sexuality being highly sensitive topics also generates a host of diverse opinions which are often contradictory, and thereby confusing to young people. While, you as her mother may be cautioning her about revealing clothes being indecent and inciting, she is exposed to images of scantily clad women who are perceived to be highly desirable! Therefore, you will need to present the facts in a balanced manner to your child, sharing with her the entire picture, and help her explore her own thoughts and beliefs about the various issues.

The need to present all facets of the issue and allowing your daughter to come to her own conclusions therefore assumes high significance. For example, providing your teenager with information about contraceptives is essential even if you denounce free mixing amongst boys and girls which is prevalent these days. If being alone in the company of a boy was blasphemy in your time, it is more likely to be de rigueur with your daughter and her peers. Whatever may be your own attitudes and beliefs about sex and sexuality, it will not help to impose these on your children who are growing up in very different climes. What will help instead is equipping your daughter with extensive information and appropriate life skills, which will enable her to consider the potential risks involved, and consequently decide for herself whether or not to have a sexual relationship.