Talk to your children about the Important Stuff.

Taking the time to talk… and not lecture your children about the important issues is sometimes really hard. More often than not when the opportunity arises in our house I am too busy or too tired.

Sure, we have these dinner table discussions before everything turns to custard, and then you have to be mindful that what’s appropriate for a 15 year isn’t the same as a 10 year old.

You sort of hope the message gets through. Don’t talk to strangers…don’t do drugs…I am pretty impressed with the education my sons have received at state schools. The puberty/sex education, coupled with the drug/alcohol, and even sex, are not sensationalized, but quite matter of fact and it is these lessons that have been the catalyst for further discussion.

I chuckled to myself when a month or so ago I had my leg in plaster. Master 12 very seriously asked me if I was still able to you know what. This led to “how often”, “how long” and most importantly “how” when I went to bed so much earlier than dad. Ah, the mind boggles.

There is a fine line between wanting to inform and educate and scaring the life out of them, and letting them be children without alarming them too much about the dangers that surround them.

I am also a firm believer in discussing current affairs, grooming them to think for themselves with hopefully the goal of becoming good citizens and real contributors to our communities. There is no greater time than now, even if none of mine can vote..It is a fantastic topic to debate with your kids. Driving around town the hoardings for the elections gives reason for interesting car trips. The other day I asked the boys: “If they could vote, who would they vote for?” Master 10 said he didn’t like Helen Clark because every time the Warriors won she took all the credit, and when they lost she was nowhere to be seen. I am sure some adults cast their decisions on lesser grounds than that.

To date our boys know all the leaders of the parties and their deputies; they have a basic understanding of what each party stands for — although the shenanigans of the past few weeks make it difficult for them to believe anyone. Let’s not underestimate our influence over them, if they see you taking the matter seriously they will grow up understanding that it is their duty later on to exercise their right to vote for the sake of their own future.

This time round, however, I will not be taking any boys into the polling booth with me, as I recall last election one of them yelling at the top of his voice exactly who I had voted for.



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Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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