The good ol’ sex talk. If you are like most parents I talk to you are either dreading it or you are desperate to do a better job than the very lacking sex education you received but you have no idea where to start.
Society has created such a shame and taboo around sex that we no longer know how to talk to our kids about their bodies, their pleasure, and their relationships. And yet, when we do talk openly about these things we give them tools to stay confident, tools to connect with who they are, tools to find and stay in healthy and loving relationships, and tools to avoid the very scary abuse statistics we as parents do not like thinking about.
So let’s talk about the five things every parent should know (regardless of how old their kids are) to have positive and impactful conversations about relationships and sex with their kids.
You are the best person for the job
Some schools do a great job of this, most do not – but even still – why would you put anyone else in charge of teaching your children some of the most fundamental things about who they are and how they related to others. Sex ed is about more than penises and vaginas. It’s about understanding our sense of self and how we related to others in the world. Only you know how you want to raise your kids. You can create a culture in your home where questions are welcomed, answers are found together, and sex and relationships are healthy, natural parts of life. Plus, stats show, despite what we may think, our kids do rely on us for this information.
It always starts with you
If we want to pass on healthy perspectives and beliefs about sex to our kids, we have to start first by exploring our own beliefs first. Ask yourself what you believe about sex and relationships, what have you learned, what do you want to pass on and what do you want to change?
It’s never too early to start
My two year old can tell me where her vulva is. Statistics show this will make her less vulnerable to abuse and more likely to report it should it happen as she grows up. When I tickle my daughter I ask her permission and let her know she is in control of her body. When my seven year old asks what sex is, I welcome his questions and we get the facts together. You can start teaching elements of sexuality from the day your babes are out of the womb. It’s never too early to start and what you share evolves and deepens as they grow.
You cannot give them too much information
It’s a myth that talking about sex makes our kids more curious about sex or more sexual. Our children need a safe and reliable place to get accurate information about bodies, touch, gender, and relationships. We can be that space for our kids – not the playground or back avenues of the internet. Kids have a wonderful ability to only process what they are ready to process. If you go into too much detail on something they are going to take what’s relevant and leave the rest. You can’t mess it up by sharing too much – be willing to answer their questions or search for the answers with them and this will go a long way.
Conversations about sex should happen often and early. Your preteen should know about puberty BEFORE it hits them like a truck. Initiate conversations with books at bedtime or around the house, talk about movie scenes, or even real-life together. And if they are asking about something – welcome their curiosity, get clear about what they want to know and look for the answers together.
Like all things in parenting, we won’t always get it 100% right. The point is to try, to fail and to learn. I know this topic feels tender, and many are afraid they will do it “wrong”. I want to assure you that the only way to do it “wrong” here is to not do it at all.