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This is the real truth about who needs to teach your kids the important things


There is a night from my Masters in Education program that I will never forget. Our usually kumbaya-ish, feel-good, warm and fuzzy group of soon-to-be teachers were up in arms in a heated debate.

As in a raised voices, interrupting, eye rolling, not-so-friendly debate. The kind we had spent all semester learning how to avoid in our future classrooms!

You might be wondering what could have possibly unraveled our group discussion so thoroughly. I am going to tell you exactly what the topic was, what about it made us so passionate, and what this means for you in just a moment.

But first, I want you to think of a topic that is really and truly important to you that your kids understand.

I’m not talking about math facts or non-fiction reading.

I’m talking about a life skill.

Maybe something that feels hard to bring up, or even awkward. Something that you definitely don’t want to mess up. Something that could be considered a “big talk.”

In my line of work—I help parents and teachers teach kids how to be kind online—when I say “the big talk,” I mean talking to your kids about the right ways to use social media.

But whenever I use this phrasing, people assume that I mean talking to your kids about sex.

The truth is that there is a whole slew of big talks that our kids and students need.

How to use the online world is one.

Sex education is another.

Drug education is a third.

Alcohol is a fourth.

And the list goes on and on.

Even though at first blush it may seem that these topics are really different from each other, they actually have some very important things in common. I want to tell you 4 of them right now.

Here are 4 things that all “Big Talks” have in common:

  1. We need to start having these with our kids at much younger ages than most people think.
  2. We can take the pressure off of how big the conversation feels by breaking it down into several ongoing conversations.
  3. It’s super important to use trusted and vetted information.
  4. Our kids will learn and do best if their parents and teachers are on the same page and are sending the same messages.

Confession: Number 4 in my list above is what got my masters group in such a tussle all those years ago.

We were discussing who has more influence on children’s learning: their parents or their teachers.

On the one hand, it sure is easy to think that the other person holds the biggest responsibility.

And the flip side of this coin is that this is a very dangerous state of mind, because if we assume that the other one is doing the teaching then it’s easy to fall into the habit of not discussing it with kids.

And this is costly for the kids.

Like with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In the best case scenario, a child is given the same messages from their parents and their teachers.

When this happens, there is a far smaller chance of confusion and a far bigger chance of earning buy in from our kids—because all of their trusted adults are saying the same things.

In my own line of work, I have found this to be super important and effective, so I talk to parents and teachers at the same time, in the same way.

For example, I have a list of 7 conversations parents and teachers should be having with their school age kids about social media way sooner than you’d ever think—even before they’re online. You can get that list RIGHT HERE.
And right here at this site, Ask, Listen, Learn has launched a seven-part animation series about alcohol’s affect on the developing brain with corresponding lesson plans and parent resources. You can view this series RIGHT HERE.

Do you notice the similarities?

• Vetted information
• From a trusted source
• That can be used by both parents and teachers

This is not an accident, this is by design.

When parents and educators approach high-stakes “big talks” like saying no to alcohol and learning the right ways to be online in this way, our kids are better set up for success.

Another thing that both parents and teachers have in common is how very limited and stretched their time is, making the choice to only use programs and messages that have been tried, tested, and proven even more important than it ever has been.

In our world of information overload, this is really the only way of getting these big talks right: use proven information and keep the lines of communication between parents and teachers wide open about what these messages are and how to best teach them to our kids.

It might seem overwhelming at first, but by doing these two things you are taking the exact right steps to having modern-day “big talks” with your kids that both matter, work, and won’t spark a tussle between parents and teachers.

For resources in getting started with these big talks:

  1. Ask, Listen, Learn’s series on how alcohol’s effect on the developing brain can be found RIGHT HERE.
  2. My proven list of 7 conversations to have with kids about social media even if they’re not online yet can be found RIGHT HERE.
Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple, no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. Your can get her parents’ guide to big talks about social media RIGHT HERE.