LN – Yes to the uncomfortable dialogue: to be able to talk everything with the children, a key to parenting

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Sofia with her youngest daughter, Francisca: “She didn't understand what cancer was at the time but I did tell her that I was sick and she accompanied me a lot.” Credit: Mauro Alfieri

A few days ago, after Fernando Báez Sosa, a 19-year-old boy, was killed by other young people at the exit of a bowling alley in Villa Gesell,
The importance of good communication between parents and children once again became central among specialists.

Although it may be confused with the verbal exchange of everyday trivialities,
Dialogue with children is a serious thing and even sometimes uncomfortable. It is a deeper process, in which values ​​are transmitted, behavior patterns and positions the link in an area of ​​mutual trust.

The specialists agree that it is also a fundamental space for parenting, irreplaceable, although we live in an environment full of information and sometimes it is assumed that the boys already know everything. On the contrary, they clarify that the informative overabundance embodies potential risks and requires the adult presence to sift it judiciously. Especially when uncomfortable or difficult issues are imposed.

The overabundance of information embodies potential risks and requires the adult presence to sift it carefully. Especially when uncomfortable or difficult issues are imposed.

Although the main form of communication between human beings is verbal, when the interlocutors are the children, sometimes we run out of words. How to talk to them about death or sexuality? How to answer your questions about abortion or gender diversity? How – and from when – face these and other issues, such as the danger of drugs and excesses?
In short, how to transform situations like Villa Gesell's crime into an opportunity to talk about what matters?

The key lies in building a solid bond, in which speech is present from the first years of life.. It is of little use to remember to talk with the children when they reach adolescence if the habit was little present during the previous years.

During the first years of life, death and sexuality are often thorny issues.
“Today children ask more about death because sexuality is less taboo. Instead, parents have a hard time talking about death. When we say 'difficult topics' it is not that they are for children only, but they are also for parents, “explains Luciano Luterau, psychoanalyst and author of the books More Parenting, Less Therapy and Those Rare New Teenagers, both edited by Paidós.

When we say 'difficult topics' it is not that they are for children only, but that they are also for parents.

Luciano Luterau, psychoanalyst

The pediatricians Vanesa Patrucco and Alejandra Olivieri, members of the National Committee of Family and Mental Health of the Argentine Society of Pediatrics,
they agree to put the need to talk about other issues also inserted in everyday life, which are often left aside because they bother, generate shame, are painful or it is not known how far an answer should be given.


There are issues that always existed but that many still have trouble talking, such as births, divorce, losses, illnesses, self-care and intimacy, sexuality, and in older and teenagers, gender violence, racism, bullying, grooming are added , abortion, etc. “, the specialists point out together.

Close and thoughtful

But how to approach them?
Ideally, find appropriate contexts, without transforming the dialogue into something solemn.


The boys perceive our inconsistencies and take note of our contradictions, hence it is not advisable to approach them from the place of the smarty, but to adopt a close, reflective attitude, tolerant of criticism and dissent, highlights Mariángeles Castro Sánchez, director of the degree in Family Orientation at the Universidad Austral.

It is not advisable to approach them from a smarty place, but to adopt a close, reflective attitude, tolerant of criticism and dissent.

Mariángeles Castro Sánchez, Universidad Austral

When in 2003, and at 41,
life surprised her with a diagnosis of breast cancer, the strategy that Sofia Zancaner used to talk to her three children, by then, 15, 11 and 6 years was to do it separately.


“Everything was always very spoken and naturalized,” says Sofia Zancaner. Credit: Mauro Alfieri


Santi, the elder, asked me if I was going to get skinned -remember-. 'If I do chemo, yes,' I replied; and I asked him to stay close.
Bauti, the 11, asked me if I was going to die. I told him that I hoped not and that I planned to do everything in my power not to die.
Then he told me that a partner had said: 'Your mother has cancer and is going to die.' By that time I had spoken with some moms from school before.
Francisca, the youngest, didn't understand what cancer was at that time, but I did tell him that I was sick and he accompanied me a lot. “

When his hair began to fall, he recalls, first he cut it short and then he took it off. “I remember telling the boys:
'Look me in the eye, I'm still your mom with or without hair'. Everything was always very spoken and naturalized, “recalls Zancaner, who believes that communication is essential in cases like his because, on the other hand, the children perceive the unsaid.” I remember having met a woman who had preferred not to tell his son, he adds. I hid that I was bare wearing wigs. I saw her a while later and she told me that her son had drawn her bare. “

Zancaner believes that communication is essential in cases like yours because, on the other hand, children perceive the unsaid.


Today the disease is not something cyclical but chronic in many cases: many people live with a disease for many years. The important thing is how to explain to the child that the disease does not disavow the father or mother, but the first step is that the patient does not disavow himself, “says Luterau, also a doctor of Psychology and Philosophy at the UBA.

The first step is that the patient does not disavow himself.

Luciano Luterau, psychoanalyst

Avoid talking about certain issues does not make them disappear. If the adult fails to position himself as an immediate and trusted reference for the children, the most frequent will be that they look for this information in alternative sources and not always reliable. “Thanks to access to the Internet and membership in social networks, children and adolescents discover topics at an earlier age.
They seek information and answers in other sources, often not the most appropriate, and that should mobilize us, as adults, to know this reality and prepare us to listen, ask, analyze, respond, accompany them in this search for answers and knowledge, so that are exposed “, recommend Patrucco and Olivieri.

Not being clear in the concepts for avoiding certain issues or fearing the reactions of the children can also generate confusion. “At very short ages, they don't understand metaphors. We have children in the foundation who are afraid that the planes will run over their dead loved one because they were told that he was in heaven,” says Aldana Di Costanzo, director of the Aiken Foundation, a social organization that accompanies children and adolescents in mourning for the death of a father, mother or siblings.

If the adult fails to position himself as an immediate and trusted reference for the children, the most frequent will be that they look for this information in alternative sources and not always reliable.

Di Constanzo considers it essential that both in the case of death and in the case of other issues,
It is adults who open a window to the world for boys. “We are supposed to generate contexts -he continues-. Nothing better than a referent and loving adult because
One of the axes to talk about any difficult issue is care. Likewise, the truth is fundamental, obviously adapting the words and the amount of information to the child's age. “

When his Tahiel died in September 2018 and with almost 4 years, his youngest son, Flavia Alvarez had to find the words to tell Jazmín, his other daughter, 8 years old. “At the time of his birth, we found that Tai had Patau syndrome, which has a life prognosis of between 4 months and a year. With Emi, my partner, we were presented with the dilemma of what to do with Jaz.
Then I consulted with a psychologist and we decided not to tell her and let her enjoy her little brother without thinking that he was going to die.


Jasmine (8), along with his parents, Flavia and Emiliano; they had to deal with the death of their youngest son.
Jasmine (8), along with his parents, Flavia and Emiliano; they had to deal with the death of their youngest son. Credit: Courtesy

After contracting fulminant pneumonia in 2018, doctors told parents there was not much to do: Tahiel passed away in five days.
The most crude moment for Jasmine was his brother's funeral.

As days go by,
the girl began to show abductions of crying and anger and her mother began to fear that all those feelings would decant in her in a negative way. Soon they began to attend the Aiken foundation. “On one of those days, Jasmine was able to verbalize his anger at not being able to say goodbye to his brother,” recalls Flavia, 42, who acknowledges that it was a challenge to learn to contain his daughter without hiding his own duel.

Jasmine could verbalize his anger at not being able to say goodbye to his brother.

Flavia Álvarez

Regardless of the issue at hand, the key is to forge a consistent and taboo-free communication, sustained from affection and example. This is also considered by the specialist doctor in Pediatrics and Adolescence Enrique Berner. “There is a lot of content to speak from the first years of life -reflects-. Development, responsibility, autonomy and security, sexuality, respect for the other; show them from the example being solidarity and respect for all usually.
One has to prepare them for adolescence since childhood. “

A stage of changes

“Impetuous, arrogant and respondent.” Enrique Berner, head of the Adolescence service of the Cosme Argerich hospital explains that this is how Socrates himself described adolescents.
“They have not changed, what changed is the context”, this doctor specializes in Pediatrics and Adolescence.

In his view, adolescents circulate in a context full of dangers and without too much social or state containment, so the presence of parents is essential.


Neuroscience has confirmed that the human brain reaches adult status at 25. This places them in a state of vulnerability because they are in the process of biological, psychological and social maturation. They require accompaniment and
adults are responsible, we have to get involved in their care as when they were younger“recommends Berner.

In a world that embodies potential dangers, the word of the adult becomes fundamental during adolescence.
Talking about sexuality, drugs and violence becomes imperative, even if that implies assuming that children have stopped being children..

For the psychoanalyst Luciano Luterau, there are issues related to sexuality that parents do not touch because they do not believe they are necessary or because it forces them to recognize the sexuality of the son or daughter not as something that will come, but as already happened.
However, he believes that “although it seems silly, we must explain that the condom is not only a method of preventing pregnancy, but also of sexually transmitted diseases.” And it details a phenomenon that demonstrates why it is necessary: ​​”The increase in sexually transmitted diseases; not only HIV infection but the return of 'venereal' such as gonorrhea and syphilis.”

Luciano Luterau explains that there are issues related to sexuality that parents do not touch because they do not believe they are necessary or because it forces them to recognize the sexuality of the son or daughter not as something that will come, but as already happened.

In that sense, Berner is emphatic: “The contents of sex education must be from the first years of life.
It is of little use to show a condom to a boy at 15 if he never talked about his importance before. “ And he recommends that parents talk about the body without taboos, about the penis, the vagina, making it clear that the genitals mark biological sex, but no more than that.

“There are issues, such as the morning after pill, in which I do believe that parents have a conflict when it comes to seeing what to say.
Some speak it and others do not. The common fear is that they feel they encourage something “, Luterau acknowledges.

There are issues, such as the morning after pill in which parents have a conflict when it comes to seeing what to say.

Luciano Luterau, psychonalist

On the other hand,
it is during adolescence where the peer group becomes more relevant. “One of the ways children have to feel powerful in the face of a very difficult world for them and that scares them is to get together in groups. The idea that groups are for young people a second family is good.
But when they start to have a lot of preeminence, the risk is that situations like the ones we've seen on the Coast may occur. “, analyzes Miguel Espeche, general coordinator of the Neighborhood Mental Health Program of the Pirovano Hospital.

Berner recommends focusing on the autonomy of each boy.
“You have to tell them that sometimes the group can take them where they don't want to go and that they have to be autonomous and not get carried away,” advises the doctor, who adds that the service he directs in Argerich organized a meeting with adolescents with different socioeconomic profiles explained, through the format of TED talks, what they need from adults. One of them, remember, expressed the following request:
“Even if I close the door, knock it again. Because maybe I have something else to say.” The time has come to listen to them.

Resources for parents

  • Bibliographic material: In recent years, different books related to parenting were released. Among them, More parenting, less therapy and Those rare new teenagers, both of the psychoanalyst Luciano Luterau and edited by Paidós, in which the author highlights how important is the accompaniment of adults
  • In the web: The adolescence service of the Cosme Argerich hospital has a page on
    Facebook. He too
    Institute of Family Sciences has different orientation programs in virtual format.
  • Specific Orientation: The
    Fundación Aiken is a non-profit social organization that accompanies children and adolescents in grief. Also the Neighborhood Mental Health Program of the Pirovano Hospital has several
    workshops

FURTHER

. (tagsToTranslate) Yes to the awkward dialogue: to be able to talk everything with the children (t) key in the upbringing – LA NACION


Publicado en el diario La Nación