My children are both now in college. They have known about my skin cancer their entire lives. They have seen my scars. They know the regimen that I must follow. They see the baseball caps, the sunscreen, the long-sleeved shirts, the non-beachy vacations. They have heard the stories. They know the deal. But, has the message gotten through?
Do they get it?
My best answer is that I am not sure. Oh, I do believe that they know my story and I do believe that they respect my message about skin protection, but how much have they incorporated into their lives? Has my story affected their behavior? I think to some degree it has. I see them carrying sunscreen. I am not sure, though, if they reapply and are as conscientious as I am, but that is to be expected. I guess I had to learn lessons on my own no matter what MY parents said. The best teacher is self-experience no matter what the old man says. That being said, here are some tips for communicating with your children about sun protection. Some of these tips are from a recent article that I read and some are from my own playbook.
Tips for talking to children about sun protection
- Be a good example. Lather up on sunscreen and find shady areas to sit at outdoor events. Hopefully, your example will be followed.
- Share the facts about sunscreen. Recent studies show that one-fifth of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and the risk doubles after only five sunburns. While facts may not override the desire for a “healthy glow”, it may help if a young person is on the fence about tanning.
- Prolonged sun exposure is linked to premature aging. Now teens might not be concerned with premature aging since they are so young, but once again putting these effects with the others may sway their thinking.
- Tanning beds pose risks. Some teens may think that this exposure is less risky, the fact is that UV exposure is still dangerous. Consider self-tanning products, but be sure to discuss the risk of self-tanners.
- Talk to your children about their inherent value and inner beauty that does not come from outward appearance. This would be a great lesson to learn early in life.
- Many celebrities, such as Nicole Kidman, has shunned tanning and celebrate their natural color. This is not to place value on any color of skin. We are all beautiful in our own way, but each one of us protecting our skin is of great value in my opinion.
- Be sensitive to your child’s viewpoint and don’t shut him/her down if they might disagree or choose behaviors that you don’t support. Speak to your kids gently and reasonably, without losing the message.
- You still have influence. It may seem that peer pressure and certain parts of the media are tough opponents, but don’t lose heart. Children will remember your words, if spoken out of love and genuine concern and often will heed them later in life (Hopefully, not much later).
Don’t get frustrated when your teen makes decisions that you don’t like. It is not automatically a reflection on you and your parenting. So many kids want to experiment and touch the stove. Often, that first touch is the greatest teacher of all.