I was lucky enough to be invited to afternoon tea at a swanky hotel in London with Nadia Sawalha recently! Cue gasps of ‘OMG, I love her!’ But there is, in fact, a serious matter attached to the lovely afternoon I was privileged to be a part of.

#TeenTalk

Nadia is ambassador for a fabulous campaign being launched today by P&G and Boots. Along with the brands, Nadia and her daughter are fronting #TeenTalk, which is aimed at getting parents chatting to their kids about puberty. Eek!

‘Teen expert’, Sarah Newton joined Nadia and her daughter, Maddie to talk all things awkward with a group of bloggers, and how we can try to make that conversation easier. We also had the arduous task of drinking coffee (hate), eating cake (gross), and gossiping (blah).

#TeenTalk Afternoon Tea

I’m now 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. Bear with me.

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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 dad’s, 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 period to begin.

#TeenTalk

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.

He insisted.

An awkward battle of wills ensued… And all the while Clare stood on the sidelines, her cheeks aflame with embarrassment.

Gosh, how awful. Can you imagine?

Actually, I don’t have to imagine very hard at all. This actually happened to me, and my cheeks weren’t simply aflame with embarrassment, they were burning with shame.

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 while this anecdote may be mildly amusing, it also perfectly illustrates the grave importance of being able to have a frank conversation with your child.

The thought of either of our daughters being in this situation devastates me – I know that no matter how uncomfortable, my husband would want to help our girls.

So it’s vital that we pave the way for these difficult conversations before they can become an insurmountable problem.

But How?

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.”

#TeenTalk Chat

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 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.

#TeenTalk

The Campaign

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.

#TeenTalk Giveaway

 

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.

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.

Tags

Health, Parenting, Tips and Advice

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is an experienced breastfeeding advocate, and expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

88 Comments

  1. Keri Jones Reply

    My son is a little young at the moment. We feel we are prepared though. This blog post has made me feel more confident. We are very open and I would like to think our son knows he can talk to us about anything xx

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      It’s great you feel prepared, and if this post has helped to confirm it, that’s fantastic and I’m delighted. Thanks for commenting x

  2. Harline parkin Reply

    Well my daughter is grown up now with three children of her own but I had the chat with her aged 10 and she’s doing the same with my grandchildren

  3. amy fidler Reply

    Mines alittle young still,but i’m all prepared for when the questions are asked xx

  4. I think it would be very helpful to be prepared and to make sure your comfortable and ready to have the talk, so things are nice and comfortable x

  5. Victoria Shiel Reply

    I’ve not had the chat yet as my daughter is too young but I will cross that bridge nearer the time

  6. Lindsey Stuart Reply

    My son is still quite young but he is already asking questions, I feel quite at ease discussing anything with him It’s good to feel comfortable talking to your little ones 😀

  7. I’m so proud to be part of this campaign and to see that it is REALLY helping mums (like me – I have 2 daughters so I need all the advice I can get).
    Thanks for being part of this Kate!!

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      I’m thrilled to be involved in the campaign! Thanks so much for commenting, it was lovely to meet you at the event. ?

  8. Caroline Hunter Reply

    I talked to both my daughters when they asked me questions. I didn’t want them to feel uneasy like I did with my mum!

  9. I’ve always had an open and honest relationship, and just dealt with things as they cropped up.

  10. Samantha loughlin Reply

    We’ve had the chat we are very close so no concerns I think that is key friendship as well as parenthood xx

  11. Angela Treadway Reply

    My sons are too young at minute, but i come from a very open family, it was my dad that taught me about the birds and the bees rather than my mum so the boys will be told they can speak to me or their father about anything x

  12. Esma Blackwell Reply

    I haven’t had the talk at present as it hasn’t come up(Plus one off my children are too small).But when it does I feel confident in talking with my children about anything there concerned or interested to know.

  13. Jo Hutchinson Reply

    I have not had the chat yet but any tips are always useful.

  14. I have an honest and open relationship and we talk about things just as they come up.

  15. michelle o'neill Reply

    i had the chat years ago, we have always been very close x

  16. natalie moore Reply

    i had the chat with my steo daughter who started when she was 10! was difficult to explain as she is still quite naive

  17. Kristyn Harris Reply

    I have had a great chat with my 11 year old daughter. It is lovely to be able to talk to her without being embarressed.

  18. Kali filsell Reply

    I had ‘the chat’ with my son when he was about 9 , I’d rather tell him than him find out from his friends

  19. MANDY DOHERTY Reply

    My children are grown up but I always answered any questions honestly

  20. Ruth Harwood Reply

    I’ve had the chat – hard but necessary… wish I hadn’t had to, though!!

  21. claire griffiths Reply

    i have had the chat with my oldest son i would rather him hear it from me than friends etc

  22. Yes,I’ve had the chat and long time ago as both my children are over 19 years old 🙂 We can talk about anything

  23. Bridgett Wilbur Reply

    I have not had the chat yet because she’s too little, but I will. when she’s older.

  24. Alix Smith Reply

    My daughter is too small for the chat at the moment – I definitely will when she’s older though.

  25. Stephanie Coals Reply

    No I haven’t yet because they are too young but I feel prepared to have it and in a way, i”m sort of looking forward to it. I can’t wait to have a frank and honest conversation about everything and let them know that they can trust me with any information.

  26. grainne marnell-fox Reply

    we have had the chat, but of course she knew it all anyway!

  27. jo liddement Reply

    Not yet although it will be soon as my son is growing up quickly but am fully prepared to answer questions honestly and not to feel embarressed

  28. jayne hall Reply

    cant remember if i had the chat or not as mine girls are all in their 20s

  29. Sheila Evans Reply

    I’m sure every generation finds the subject difficult but straight, simple answers in preparation must make things so much easier – good article, very helpful!

  30. Alona Bilunka Reply

    i remember being educated by Always team who came to my school very regularly to educate us about changes so my mum nope she did not had that talk with me! Now being mum myself ( my daughter is 2 years old) I will be talking with her with the confidens about puberty changes and I think there is no need to be afraid or stressed about this important talk as its Batural thing it’s Mother Nature ! That’s all !

  31. rebecca nisbet Reply

    no not yet, but im sure it will be fine when it has to happen.

  32. Natalie Crossan Reply

    no but my mum was excellent with me so I’m not worried x

  33. Hannah Ingham Reply

    I remember having the chat with my mum, but it was extremely casual and I felt (and still do) very comfortable to speak to her about anything at anytime!

  34. Jayne Kelsall Reply

    I have 12 year old twin girls, 1 is really open and the other is really shy, I have talked to them but the shyer one seems to skulk off so any help would be greatly appreciated.x

  35. helen newton Reply

    Had little conversations but feel my teenage son knows more than me… they learn so much at school these days, most recently we had his first shave together being a single mum I found this more difficult , well after a lot of shaving foam , messy bathroom and laughs I had one clean shaving teenager 🙂

  36. Beverley Cousins Reply

    I’ve had the chat, because we have always been open about things, it was so easy.

  37. Nikki Hayes Reply

    No daughters here – if I’m lucky enough to win I will give the prize to a friend who has :o)

  38. My on is not old enough for the chat yet, but i’m sure that we would be quite open about it.

  39. ailsa sheldon Reply

    My daughter has just turned ten. We had the chat last year. She has pads and tampons in her bag just in case. They can start their period from the age of 8. Better to be prepared

  40. Wendy Malone Reply

    I have three girls all older and no problems at all talking about
    periods.I would say it depends on the individual.

  41. Lauren Old Reply

    Have had the chat in the past and don’t have concerns now!

  42. Laura Pritchard Reply

    Bits & pieces with my 5 yr old son as he asked a lot when I was pregnant with his sister. He knows the basics! My daughter is 1 so not yet with her!

  43. My kids are a bit young. My son is very interested in my pregnancy but he’s only 5! Good info.

  44. kelly mobbs Reply

    I’ve 12 year old twin boys, we’ve discussed bits and they’ve learnt bits at school. If they want to know anything they know they can just ask

  45. jules eley Reply

    To be honest I don’t get embarrassed about that kind of thing if they ask me I will be very honest 🙂 I would rather we giggle about it than something else

  46. Hayley Colburn Reply

    mine are still very young, but its always on my mind that its around the corner

  47. I have three children 16+ and 4 10 & under. The older ones have had the chat and I brought books that they could read as well as talking to them & answering any questions. I found just being honest works best

  48. I have a few years to go, but I like to think I am well prepared for it

  49. Vicki Macdonald Reply

    I’ve had the chat with mine, i wasnt as embaressed as i thought i’d be & they know they can ask me anything & both myself & their dad are honest with them.

  50. Beky Austerberry Reply

    I am honest and open with both my kids and thankfully we have successfully managed several difficult conversatons about growing up and bodies.

  51. Oksana Fitzgerald Reply

    I have not had a chat yet but I would love to know some tips

  52. Marie Carr Reply

    My little girl is nearly 8 and she has alot of questions.. I try to be very honest with her like my mum was with me but sometimes I am a little stuck with what to say!

  53. hayley cooper Reply

    I’ve had the chat with my 11 year old son!! He gets terribly embarrassed so i try no to push it, he knows he can ask me anything and come to me anytime, i bough him a little book which is aimed at children for when their body starts to change, he keeps this in his bedroom to look at when he wants. My daughter is only 7 and if she asks me anything I answer honestly!! 🙂 I want them to know they can talk to me and ask my anything.

  54. Great post x we have always been open and honest about bodies and have never had to have one specific talk or discussion

  55. Claire Williams Reply

    I have two teenage daughters and from quite an early age, I started talking to them, probably about anything and everything. They are now 16 and 14 and are not phased about anything. They find it so easy to open up to me about anything, they tell me everything and even talk to me about friends problems if their friends can’t talk to their own parents. They haven’t gone off the rails and both are doing very well in school.

  56. MAggie Ali Reply

    Not yet but it’s due soon. we’ve quite open relationship and we talk about things openly so I think it shouldn’t be a problem 🙂

  57. Ruth Wollerton Reply

    I am prepared, but posts like this are great to reassure I am on the right track. Thanks

  58. jessica cook Reply

    I feel prepared but my boys are a bit too young at the mo

  59. amy bondoc Reply

    my daughter is almost 15 and we had the chat, as we are very close it wasnt awkawrd at all

  60. tracey baker Reply

    I am prepared as I have gone through it with her siblings but they tend to learn from each other x

  61. kim neville Reply

    I have had the chat with my daughter and she is all prepared and feels comfortable talking about things which helps

  62. Michelle Wild Reply

    My son would appear to know more than me….about everything.

  63. Anthea Holloway Reply

    I am a Grandma now but, yes, I had the chat when my children were young!

  64. Rachel Craig Reply

    I would have loved to enter competition. Please allow competition entry via e-mail, blog comment etc.

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Hi Rachel,

      The majority of the giveaways I run are mandatory follow on twitter and given their popularity I don’t currently have plans to change that rule.

      I’m sorry you’re disappointed and would be delighted to receive your entry should you create a twitter account.

      Thanks!

  65. samantha bolter Reply

    We have a very open door policy in our house and generally talk about anything and everything, so it was and still is very easy.

  66. Natalie Gillham Reply

    I have already had the chat with my daughters and it went very well as fortunately we have a very close relationship.

  67. justine meyer Reply

    I have always been honest and open since my daughter was a little girl and understand “things”, luckily as it seems as she started her periods early at the grand old age of ten. Everything went smoothly and she took it all in her stride I think perhaps she was prepared x

  68. Louise Crocker Reply

    My daughter is 9 and we have a 1 year old dog whom has come into season/ having a period so I sat her down and started off with ‘eggs are released in your tummy’ I could see her picturing boiled eggs being released from some kind of egg chamber in her body. It went better after that.

  69. Pia Stephens Reply

    Heavens no, my own kids are very young still but I’m well prepared and have had the talk with my niece x

  70. I did the chat with all 3 of my now adult nieces (the youngest is 17) because their mum has some mental health issues and wasnt able to.

    I also had the talk with my nephew because his mum wasnt up to it and his dad wasnt around.

    To be honest though it wasnt difficult for me at all – we are quite open in my family – I ma the youngest of 4 and theres 12 years between me and my oldest sister, 9 between me and the middle one and 7 years between me and the next so they were already grown up and growing up sharing a room with older sisters who are that much older you learn all about it

  71. alice lightning Reply

    luckily my daughter was easy to talk to at the time and her teens went ok apart from the odd tantrum but that didn’t last long

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