Lifestyle

Holidays are the ideal time for parents to talk to kids about ‘taboo’ subjects


“No talk of sex, politics, or religion at the dinner table” is a trope that has saved many a Christmas lunch from all-out brawls. I wonder, though, has our avoidance of such topics over the rest of the year meant that teenagers aren’t equipped to navigate them on their own, let alone next to Uncle Ferg*?

The summer holidays slow everyone down, and even as a teacher, I can see that, for those of us with kids, they do go on and on. Perhaps we can use those walks to the pool or the beach, or the slower way we make meals, as an opportunity to cover some topics we’ve been avoiding in the rush of daily life.

The downtime on holidays can be a great opportunity to discuss topics put in the too-hard basket throughout the year.

The downtime on holidays can be a great opportunity to discuss topics put in the too-hard basket throughout the year.Credit: iStock

Like sex, that great taboo. Don’t talk about it; it’s vulgar. But maybe if we talked about it more with our teenagers, they would be primed to see that the language and behaviour they see in pornography is not normal.

And what great content we’ve been given this December, with the Oxford Dictionary making “rizz” the word of 2023. Taken from “charisma”, rizz relates to charm and attractiveness; let’s say, the ability to “pick up”.

Sex is not going anywhere, and research shows again and again that avoiding the topic with teenagers doesn’t make them any less likely to learn about it. If teenagers know there is a “normal” that exists before they are influenced by pornography, maybe they’ll know what to do when faced with a partner who knows no other way.

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What about religion? We are in a nation of declining religiosity, but also of increasing religious hate crimes. In the shadow of the Hamas attacks on October 7 and the ongoing war in Gaza, NSW has seen increases in antisemitism and Islamophobia. Perhaps some further discussion – that not every Jewish or Muslim person represents the government of Israel or Gaza – would help. We know full well that our kids are seeing antisemitic and Islamophobic content online. Unless we talk to them about it and prepare them for what they’ll be seeing, we can’t be confident about how they will process it.

And politics – that all-encompassing term can include anything from interest rates to climate change, gender politics to foreign affairs. Are we doing the right thing by our kids, especially our teenagers, by not talking to them about it? The opposite, in fact.

We know that AI-created content is spreading misinformation and affecting young people. The gaming platform Roblox is being used by extremists to radicalise kids. If they don’t know any of the vocabulary of politics, let alone where their family sits on a topic, they won’t realise they’re being brainwashed.

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