Parents admit they don’t talk to their children about sex, puberty and relationships – because they are too embarrassed, a study revealed yesterday.
Researchers found millions of parents struggle to broach topics such as puberty and the challenges of growing up with their children because they find it ‘awkward’, ‘don’t know what to say’ or believe their child is too young to hear it.
Some completely avoid the subject altogether, by pretending that they didn’t hear them, faking a phone call and even staying at work late to avoid being on their own with their inquisitive child.
The poll, by Lil-Lets, also found others admit to hoping their kids learn what they need to know elsewhere to get them out of ‘the talk’, with others even relying on the Internet and older siblings to pass on the life lessons.
Dr Lih-Mei Liao, a consultant clinical psychologist working with Lil-Lets, said: ‘’Many parents feel they are on borrowed time with their children and there’s nothing like puberty to remind them just how brief that time is.
‘’But it’s important for parents to remember that puberty and periods don’t suddenly make their children an adult.
‘’The idea of talking to a child about puberty can feel a little strange but as children approach their teenage years there are subjects they need to be made aware of, even if parents feel they are being propelled into unknown territories.
‘’We are taught to be very discreet about periods, and you may want to reverse this preconception early on.
‘’There is not a right or wrong way of talking to your daughter –be upfront and let her know you’re available if she wants to ask you any questions.’’
Mary Young, Head of UK Marketing at Lil-Lets, added: ‘‘Raising topics such as puberty and periods with your children can be daunting but with a bit of preparation, both you and your children can get through it with as little embarrassment as possible.
‘’Building on a successful schools outreach programme last year, Lil-Lets has created an interactive DVD all about puberty and a resource pack to support teachers in primary and secondary schools across the country.
‘’However, we also understand how difficult it can be for parents to prepare themselves for ‘the talk’, so to help them we have created a short film ‘Let’s Talk Puberty for Parents’.”
The study of 2,000 Brits revealed that more than 60 per cent of parents find it difficult to talk to their children about sensitive subjects.
Half of those say they simply find it awkward or embarrassing, while another 54 per cent worry about how it will make their child feel.
More than one in two even went as far as to say they were dreading the day when they first had to talk to their children about an awkward subject, with more than one in five claiming they have been worrying about these conversations since their child was as young as four years old.
It also emerged that parents’ concerns around broaching tricky topics have led to hours of discussion between mums and dads about when, how and who should broach the subject of sex or puberty, with a third admitting they have rowed about it.
Forty-one per cent of those argued with their partner about who should be the one to do it, with 40 per cent also coming to blows over whether or not their child was even ready for the conversation.
But four in ten parents admitted to completely avoid talking about puberty, sex and relationships with their children altogether.
Shockingly, of those, almost a quarter pretended to be busy when their child asked a question they don’t want to answer.
Almost 20 per said they had to rush out somewhere, while another 25 per cent even pretended they didn’t know the answer.
Forty-three per cent even owned up to answering a question with ‘I don’t know, go and ask your mum/dad’, with dads most likely to use this response.
Researchers also found that sex is the subject parents dread discussing with their children the most, followed by puberty and intimate health issues.
The thought of having to talk about periods and even getting their first boyfriend or girlfriend also leaves a large number of parents nervous.
But despite the embarrassment, more than half of parents admitted that sitting down and having a frank conversation brought them closer to their children.