How single parent Nama handles ‘the talk’ with her teenage son | #socialmedia | #children

Most parents will admit that they’re not exactly sure what they’re doing with their kids, this year in particular.

And I’d be the first.

“Hello, I’m Nama, and if someone could make some big parenting decisions for me, say two to three days a week, that would be super helpful. Thanks.”

But as sole parent to a 13-year-old son, I’ve started to feel a little out of my depth. Not in the normal “what am I doing?” way, but in the “I have no experience with teen boys at all” way.

I recently found myself wondering how to raise a teenage boy and help him transition into manhood.

As somebody who has never been a teenage boy myself, I wondered: Is there a special talk that dads give their teen sons about sex? A special way to shave a face, which is different from shaving legs? Do I need to tell him anything about his changing… bits?

‘Boy talk’ doesn’t have to come from a dad

When his voice broke, my son was so excited, and he’s proud of his grown-up voice. It made me a little sad to think he didn’t have someone he could share that experience with in his home.

But then I realised this was my social conditioning talking.

A lifetime of thinking about girls and boys as identities, rather than people, until I became a mum. Why should any teen conversations be gendered, when the rest of my parenting is not?

We have a gender-neutral house in terms of domestic work. I’ve had no issues with the toys my son has played with, the colours he chooses to wear, the nail polish he applied only on his toes at his strict all-boys school because he still wanted to express himself in some way.

In fact, I feel a little conflicted when I see dads applauded on the internet for playing fairies with their daughters.

It’s 2020 — that’s the way it should be. I’d even like to see dads do that stuff with their sons!

Really, we’ve come so far with gender stereotypes, and I’ve always believed in frank, educated discussion with my son. So this year I asked myself: why should I shy away from traditionally ‘dad’ conversations, just because I’m a mum?

Yes, talking about porn, for example, may be a tad awkward, but I’m sure many dads find that awkward, too. I also realised that in chats about things like sexual consent, my female perspective would be useful.

So the answer was clear: I needed to ‘woman up’, do my research, and embrace this parenting challenge.

Here are a few pointers I’ve picked up about how parents — regardless of their gender — can approach sensitive or awkward conversations.

Find reliable, diverse sources of parenting advice

The key to parenting through this phase as a single mum was to find information that was not gendered. Because I’m not a ‘substitute dad’. I’m a parent.

Here are some of my favourite resources:

  • Diverse parenting social media accounts: I make a point of following only parenting accounts that are useful, and funny. People like Sean Szeps, father of twins with partner Josh. Sean is honest and open about parenting, but the best part is watching what a good time he has with the journey. It’s also so interesting to see how the couple do parenting without a ‘mum’ in the house. They’re basically non-stereotype goals.
  • Teachers: Being a single parent, it’s always vitally important to me to have a good relationship with my son’s school. The teachers and staff are the only other adults who spend extended time with my son, so really, they know him almost as well as I do. Being respectful of their time, I’ve always sought their advice on issues at school, confident that they can shed light on him as an individual. Their experience is invaluable in helping me understand what’s happening, and what I’m doing.
  • The Raising Children Network: It’s a comprehensive and very useful government-run resource for parents from a child’s birth until adulthood. It’s loaded with up-to-date information from experts, and yes, there’s even a section on how to constructively talk to teens about porn. (Don’t ask me how I know that.)

Timing is everything

I’ve learned a meaningful conversation can’t happen when we’re distracted, or exhausted. And it can’t be forced. I usually approach my son with a “Can I talk to you for a sec?” — super casual, so as not to scare him off, ensuring he is emotionally free to listen.

Or trapped, like in the car. Joking — but driving around is often the best time for us to chat with no distractions.

I also use his ‘language’ to communicate; for example, sharing a TikTok video with him will get his attention, and I can then open a dialogue with him about the content (for example, how so many things are sexualised).

The first chat is just an opening

The initial “talk” is almost like an icebreaker — the start of an evolving discussion.

I like to make it clear to my son that I’m not lecturing, and he can ask more questions at any time. I’ve also let him know that he can see our GP for questions, and there’s also the school counsellor.

Growing up involves a lot of decision-making

Kids get basic sex education at school, but ridiculous information in the playground. It’s a dialogue I’ve been keen to contribute to, to ensure my son has his facts right.

But “boy talk” doesn’t end with talk about biology and changing body parts.

There’s also real life, personal examples I can give him about consent, respect, gender and sexual identity. I already talk to him about addiction and mental health.

I think it’s important for my son to get my perspective and see how I made decisions as I was growing up. It also, hopefully, makes me more relatable.

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