#TeenTalk with Nadia Sawalha
*An Ask Me Anything Special Edition*
Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to afternoon tea at a swanky hotel in London – with Nadia Sawalha! Cue gasps of ‘OMG, I love her!’ – I know, because it’s the same reaction I’ve had from each and every person I’ve bragged about mentioned it to. And in answer to your question – yes, she was equally lovely in real life!
(You know how sometimes it’s necessary to practice nonchalance, so you don’t come over as an overexcited puppy – or, in my case, totally starstruck? I may have had to do this a little bit…)
You’ll naturally be wondering why, precisely, I (me!) was fortunate enough to receive such an honour? Well, we’re bessie mates…is what I wish could tell you; alas it’s not the case and I’d be lying. There is, in fact, a serious matter attached to the lovely afternoon I was privileged to be a part of.
Nadia is ambassador for a fabulous campaign being launched today by P&G and Boots. (Finally the big reveal – I’ve had to keep my lips sealed for six weeks and it’s been a killer!) Along with the brands, Nadia and her daughter are fronting #TeenTalk, which is aimed at getting parents chatting to their kiddos about *whispers* puberty. Eek!
There were about eight bloggers present (I was too overwhelmed to actually count when I arrived, and enjoying myself too much by the time I left!); several PR brand reps; ‘teen expert’, Sarah Newton; and Nadia and her daughter, Maddie. And we had the arduous task of drinking coffee (hate), eating cake (gross), and gossiping (blah).
Eurhhh, the things I have to do for my job – could I have found a worse way to spend my afternoon? (For anyone reading who is not a regular follower of my blog, you may miss the heavy sarcasm dripping from my words. So to avoid any misunderstandings: coffee and cake are my favourite things in the world, after my daughter of course. Oh! And my husband – he’d be upset if I put caffeine and sugar above him.)
I wore a smart navy jumpsuit with a floral shirt which I’d purchased specially for the occasion – totally worth it as I received two separate compliments on the combo. (You’re interested in these details right? No? Well, while Nadia has your attention I’m going to milk it and pretend to be a fash blogger for just a little longer. I never get to dress up these days, so humour me just this once. [Please?] Thanks Nadia.) I had also purchased some smart new shoes, because I tend to wear wellies a lot these days, and thought they may be considered somewhat inappropriate attire. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to paint my nails, which – without fail – is always the one thing I never find the time for since I had my daughter! Alright, enough of that. Back to the matter at hand…
I’m tasked with helping to promote this worthy cause, of encouraging the ‘birds and the bees’ chat. Hmmm. Here’s the thing: no matter how much we wish it were not the case, it’s…well…a little embarrassing, really; isn’t it? And I need to write about it. Openly. On my blog. I can only do my best, so bear with me.
Probably the best way to handle this situation is to diffuse any awkwardness with a little humour. So I’m going to tell you a funny anecdote about a school friend of mine…
The Birds and The Bees
This girl, let’s call her Clare (sorry Clare, I promise not to use your surname), was thirteen at the time. Around thirteen is the average age for a girl to, ahem, start her monthly cycle.
Anyway, so Clare and her siblings were visiting their dad one weekend (her parents were divorced). He had a new partner, so (thankfully as it turns out) there was a woman present too. During the first evening at her dads, a traumatic incident took place. I don’t recall the precise details; I just know it was something that affected Clare quite profoundly. In case you’re not already aware, such an event can actually be a trigger for a girl’s periods to begin.
Guess what? The very next evening, Clare’s first ever period began. (Bet you didn’t see that coming…) Unfortunately she wasn’t super close to her dad – certainly not enough to tell him what had happened anyway…
Luckily, Clare was quite close to her step-mum, Jan, and was able to confide in her. Jan was great, and quickly took control, telling her other half they were popping out to take the dog for a walk. But Clare’s dad was a gentleman. Unfortunately in this particular situation, he was such a gent that things became very difficult…
He offered to take the dog.
Jan politely declined.
An awkward battle of wills ensued… And all the while Clare stood on the sidelines red-faced, her cheeks aflame with embarrassment.
Gosh, how awful. Can you imagine?
Actually, I don’t have to imagine very hard at all. Clare is my middle name (it’s not really – I don’t have one – but it would be kind of poetic if it were, so let’s just pretend). This actually happened to me, and my cheeks weren’t simply aflame with embarrassment, they were burning with shame. Which is terrible!
As my dad started to get irritated and suspicious about our motives, I clearly remember feeling like a rabbit in headlights, waiting for my step-mum to end the silly pretence and come clean about why we needed to go. So the reality is that I did not write this anecdote because it’s funny, but because I think this perfectly illustrates the grave importance of being able to have a frank conversation with your child.
The thought of this situation happening to my daughter devastates me – I know that no matter how uncomfortable, my husband would want to help Pixie. And it’s vital that we pave the way for these difficult conversations before they can become an insurmountable problem.
According to research conducted by Boots and P&G:
- 68% of parents find it difficult to approach the subject of puberty with their teens.
- 1 in 5 parents are unsure how to begin the conversation.
- So much so, that a quarter avoid #TeenTalk altogether.
#TeenTalk ambassador and mum of two, Nadia Sawalha, explains, “As a mum, I understand all too well the challenges of communicating with teens. They suddenly go from wanting to tell mum everything, to one word answers! And you can’t solve things with a quick cuddle or a sweet treat. First shaves, first periods and new personal hygiene and skincare regimes are all unfamiliar experiences for teens and can be difficult topics for parents to approach.”
Campaign expert and teenologist Sarah Newton says, “The ‘#TeenTalk’ can be awkward because parents and children probably haven’t had a conversation that’s this important yet and we put lots and lots of pressure on ourselves to get it right!”
But the good news is that despite recognising the awkwardness of the conversation, 76% of adults questioned still want to be their children’s’ first port of call. And teens are themselves less uncomfortable than their parents:
- It’s reassuring that 49% of teens are happiest discussing these matters with Mum;
- With over a third comfortable talking about personal care;
- And almost a quarter happy to address changes that will take place during puberty.
- 18% find it easy to discuss menstruation.
Despite this, a third of teens still don’t feel very confident about having #TeenTalk. Maddie, 13, explains “I know that talking to mum might not always seem like the easiest thing to do, especially about topics like puberty! Sometimes you don’t feel like talking and sometimes you have lots of questions but might feel a bit embarrassed. But remember, they’ve been through it too and they know everything you’re experiencing is completely natural, so just keep talking.”
We must also be mindful of the rise in social media meaning 53% of teenagers would prefer to turn to less awkward sources of information.
“It’s difficult”, explains Nadia, “as we are the first generation of mums to be going through this conversation with a child so connected to social media. There’s no rule book to follow or mums and grandmothers to ask for advice. Just like our teens, we’re figuring it all out as we go. It’s another of those firsts!”
I Was Uncomfortable Sharing
In truth, I was quite uncomfortable at the thought of sharing my personal and intimate story with strangers. And then I carefully considered why I felt that way.
On reflection, I wasn’t convinced it was appropriate. And I suppose that actually, there may not be many instances where it is entirely appropriate – because of course there’s such a thing as over-sharing. But in these specific circumstances, I decided it’s the perfect analogy of a wider problem:
It demonstrates the innocence of a child maturing, and how that has been skewed by our culture into something to be hidden from those who are supposed to take care of us.
And that’s where this fabulous campaign comes in.
From launch today until the end of May, a free #TeenTalk guide will be available exclusively at Boots stores, featuring advice from Nadia, Maddie and Sarah, and aimed at getting us all talking. Even better, since many parents are stuck as to which products to recommend to their teens, Boots will be offering savings on trusted brands including Always, Tampax, Gillette, Venus and Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel.
Celine Hernández, Brand Manager P&G UK and Ireland, said, “We are delighted to be joining forces with Boots to help parents and teens navigate the puberty conversation. We are proud to be able to use our brands to support parents and their teenagers as they embrace the new personal care regimes that come at this time of their lives.”
Kristy McCready from Boots agrees, “It’s with great excitement that we’re taking part in the #TeenTalk campaign with P&G. Together Nadia and her daughter Maddie, alongside expert knowledge from Sarah Newton, sum up perfectly in the #TeenTalk guide, the challenges that parents and families meet as their child develops into a teenager. We encourage parents and teens to pick up a copy of the #TeenTalk guide as part of our commitment to helping mums to help their teens feel good.”
We’re essentially talking about bodily functions – fundamental ones over which we have no control. They are not something to be ashamed of; if anything, much like the caterpillar becoming the butterfly, they should instead be celebrated.
Ultimately, I realised we’re born unembarrassed, and it’s with age, maturity, and – crucially –the influence of society, that we develop a sense of shame.
There’s only one way to tackle this, and that starts with us and how we interact with and educate our children. It’s our job to teach them to be proud of their bodies and the incredible things they are capable of.
Sarah Newton agrees, “It’s about giving them the facts. Being honest but not overwhelming them with information. They will come back and ask more questions when they are ready. Don’t forget #TeenTalk isn’t one single chat, but an ongoing conversation.”
And that’s the take home message for me:
It’s never too early to start being open with your child and answering their questions honestly.
You can find more product information and tips and advice from specialist youth expert, Sarah Newton here.
Do you know which products you’d recommend to your teens to help with their transition to adulthood? If you’d like to get your hands on a bundle of freebies from Boots and P&G simply enter below!
There’s no obligation for you to subscribe to my blog or like my facebook page to enter; but please note that your chance of winning will increase in line with the laws of karma and the good vibes I’ll be sending your way. #justsaying ?
Have you had the chat yet? Do you feel prepared/have any specific concerns about doing so? Let me know in the comments!
T’s & C’s:
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Research was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Boots and P&G amongst 1,000 UK teenagers aged 13-18, as well as their parents in February, 2016.
All stats quoted are representative of parents surveyed in Britain and Ireland.