Awkward Conversations You Must Have With Your Teens
This is an excerpt from an interview I did with holistic pediatrician Elisa Song, MD, for the Toxic Home Transformation Summit that you can check out here!
In this segment of the interview, Dr. Song and I talk about the unique challenges that children and teens face, in an age where vaping, addictions, pornography, and digestive issues have become common.
Elisa: Our bodies are supposed to be able to get rid of all the different stressors and inflammatory stressors that we receive, but we’re not living in caves anymore. In this modern world, we’re exposed to so much more [toxins and stress]. If we can minimize our kids’ exposure and optimize their elimination routes [bowels], we have the best chance to keep them healthy.
Robyn: How do we keep those communication channels open with children, especially as they get older? It turns out teenagers don’t want to talk to their mom about pooping. What can we do?
Elisa: I start the conversation really young. I talk to parents about their kids’ poop and the importance of what it looks like and how often they’re going.
Then, starting at two or three, I’m asking the kids what their poop looks like and they’re giggling. I ask every single kid about their poop because that tells me so much about their health.
I explain it to them as garbage their bodies are trying to throw out. What would happen if you never took out the garbage? Eventually it would start to rot and get stinky.
With my kids, we talk about poop and I ask them to tell me what their poop looks like. They know that healthy normal poop should be really soft like a brown banana in little soft clumps. It shouldn’t be little rock pebbles. It shouldn’t just fall apart and float in the toilet.
We talk about what it should look like, and we got this app called Poop Tracker. You take a picture of your poop before you wipe, and you can rate it along the Bristol stool chart, which is a pictorial chart of what your poop should look like.
We also track how often they’re pooping, how long it takes to come out, and if they had to strain and push really hard or it came out quickly. That’s poop.
Robyn: That’s fantastic. When I talk to my kids, I look them in the eye and talk as casually as I’m talking to you, using anatomically correct terms.
It’s really important when the child is very young to talk about elimination and poop. The only reason we get all giggly and weird about it is that we’ve created all this shame around it, but that doesn’t have to exist.
Elisa: That’s right.
Robyn: There are many other cultures around the world who openly talk about poop, and it’s not embarrassing or gross or uncomfortable socially.
Elisa: That’s right. You’ve talked about having frank, honest conversations on many “taboo” topics with your kids.
Robyn: Yes. I posted on my personal Facebook page about how I talked to my son over and over again about porn. I refer to the research that shows that shaming our kids about porn or trying to scare them with religious tactics actually drives the behavior underground. It does not control or decrease the behavior.
I try to talk to my kids five times about something that matters. So, I talked to my son repeatedly and told him a lot of people who watch porn get addicted to it.
That’s nobody’s plan when they start looking at porn, but if you get addicted, it’s entirely possible that you will need higher and higher levels of dopamine as you get more exposure to it.
You can actually get a diagnosable sexual dysfunction where you have the inability to get it up, keep it up, or finish, called Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction, or PIED.
I tell him, men who have high porn exposure sometimes can’t get it up, keep it up, or finish. Then I offer to explain to him what that means, but he never ever, ever wants me to explain what “get it up, keep it up, or finish” means.
Elisa: That is a huge issue for our teenagers now. Porn is being targeted towards teenagers, and it’s so important for parents to understand that teenagers are watching porn.
Kids are getting these messages that porn is healthy sex, that sex should be painful, or that there should be some domination involved. When boys and girls are asked about this, they say that they don’t want to have that kind of sex, but they think that the opposite sex actually wants it because that’s what they’re seeing.
We have to have these conversations without no shame or embarrassment. We also need to be talking about juuling and vaping.
Robyn: Tell us what juuling is.
Elisa: Juuling is a little vaping device that looks like a USB flash drive and comes in pretty colors and enticing flavors like tropical mango and refreshing mint. Kids literally lean into their backpacks to take hits on these juul devices.
It’s smokeless, and it doesn’t smell. Parents and kids think it’s not addictive, but there are studies now showing that among kids, vaping leads to smoking.¹
Robyn: It’s nicotine. The kids are basically smoking cigarettes out of their backpacks.
Elisa: That’s right.
Robyn: How are they buying it?
Elisa: I heard about this from the kids I work with in my office. So I looked it up and went online to see if I could buy it. No proof of age was required.
They’ve changed that now. There’s been a lot more outcry and more parents became aware of the subtle insidious marketing targeted toward teenagers. When you go to the website, there are age restrictions there, but you still can buy it.
Robyn: That’s good for parents to know.
Dr. Elisa Song is a holistic pediatrician in Belmont, CA, and can be found at Whole Family Wellness. She runs the Thriving Child Summit and teaches thousands of parents and children how to regain their health when facing autism, ADD, anxiety, chemical sensitivities, food allergies, and more at HealthyKidsHappyKids.com.
— Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is a single mom of four salad-eating, adulting kids. She has a FREE video masterclass you can sign up for here, to learn how she got herself, and her kids, off the Standard American Diet, to lose 70 pounds and ditch 21 diagnosed diseases.
1. National Academy of Science, Engineering, Medicine. Press Release: “New Report One of the Most Comprehensive Studies on Health Effects of E-Cigarettes; Finds That Using E-Cigarettes May Lead Youth to Start Smoking, Adults to Stop Smoking” Jan 23,2018. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=24952
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Can we listen to this interview?