In today’s world, where sexuality education and social-emotional education are being actively questioned in many school districts, we hear that parents and caregivers should be the primary source of information for children when it comes to sexuality, relationships, mental and emotional health, and values. However, parents often feel unsupported and overwhelmed when it comes to creating an open and informative environment for these discussions. There are references to “The Sex Talk” as if human sexuality and healthy relationships can be condensed into a single conversation. We invest years of education in training teachers to explain photosynthesis in green beans, yet we expect parents to spontaneously tackle crucial topics such as sexual health, consent, autonomy, and the intersection of faith and body.
These conversations aren’t one-time events. They’re not even a series of isolated discussions. It’s about establishing a Family Culture that aligns with your values and goals for your family. I know it might sound daunting and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
Family Culture refers to the way a family thinks, feels, and acts. It’s shaped by intentional choices, such as holiday traditions and participation in faith communities, as well as the smaller choices we make in our daily lives. Family Culture is what conveys and shapes a child’s beliefs and values from an early age.
Most importantly, your Family Culture is not set in stone. As the adult, you’re constantly shaping and creating a Family Culture for your children, and you have the power to change and adapt it as needed. There are specific steps you can take to better understand and develop your family culture.
Name Your Values: Reactive Family Cultures arise when we don’t take the time to reflect and prioritize our values within the family. We often find ourselves overwhelmed by external pressures such as work, financial stress, relationship issues, and the unique needs of our children. It can feel like we’re playing Whack-A-Mole or Pinball to all the needs of life rather than intentionally crafting a Family Culture. However, by dedicating time to contemplate and map out our values, we can reverse engineer a Family Culture that reflects them.
Evaluation: Once you know your values regarding a particular aspect of life, you can assess your current Family Culture to determine which values are being conveyed to your children. Regardless of whether your Family Culture is effectively communicating your values or not, caregiving is challenging work. It’s essential to ensure that you’re not only focused on surviving day-to-day but also investing in the long-term well-being and growth of your family. Building on the work of experts like Marla Harris and Connie Goodbread, we can understand Family Culture as being communicated through explicit, implicit, and null curricula. Trusted Adults strive to evaluate their existing Family Culture and adjust their behavior and environment to better align with their chosen values.
Tackle the Puzzles: Unexpected challenges will arise. Even the most prepared and relaxed Trusted Adult will occasionally be thrown a curveball. The key is to approach the unexpected with curiosity and seek answers to questions you don’t have immediate responses to. It’s an ongoing process. That’s where 1:1 Coaching comes in. It’s a safe space for you to bring your questions and concerns so that you can remain calm and curious when addressing these matters with your children. Whether it’s a perplexing question about sex that demands an age-appropriate response or finding the right words to address a school incident, 1:1 Coaching is there for you. It’s not therapy; rather, it’s a place to address the puzzles that every parent encounters from time to time, ensuring that your implicit, explicit, and null Family Culture aligns with your values even in the middle of it all.
With the right training and support, any dedicated caregiver can state their values, evaluate their current family practice, and tackle the puzzles as they come up. You can register for one of our upcoming trainings or schedule a 1:1 Coaching session if you are looking for additional support in becoming a Trusted Adult for the children in your life. Our trainings are offered on a sliding scale, and we believe that nobody should be turned away due to financial constraints.