Talking to your Kids about Sex is usually one of those topics that make most parents squirm. And there is a good reason for that… It takes us right back to our childhood. For most of us, ‘the chat’ or lack of it that we may have had with our parents was one that was probably quite limited in its information and awkward in its delivery.
However, that doesn’t mean that we need to repeat history and if there was ever a time to be raising sexually educated children – then it is now.
Thanks to the internet, children are exposed to sexual images and videos way before their brains can comprehend what is happening. With the average age of first exposure to pornography around 11 years old, kids are simply unprepared to distinguish the messages they encounter in porn and without the knowledge or understanding of what a respectful, consenting, intimate relationship is, pornography then becomes a major source for youth to learn about sex.
We are also seeing that children are going through puberty at a younger age and educating children around what is happening in their bodies helps them to feel more confident around this transition in their lives.
Teaching Sex Education to children isn’t about one chat, it is many conversations, starting when they are young. From teaching toddlers the proper names for body parts and helping them understand what parts of their bodies are private, we are helping to create awareness and safety around their bodies. We are also beginning a conversation at a young age that instills in our children that our growing bodies are a normal thing and it is ok to talk about it with us.
Talking about consent from a very young age also instills in children their rights around their bodies and helping them to establish a voice that can say “no” if something doesn’t feel right for them.
We can do this with young kids by not making them kiss and hug adults to say hello or goodbye. Always giving our children the option to choose if they would like to touch someone, instills the inner barometer of honoring themselves. How many of us had to kiss old Aunt Jackie at family catch-ups and hated it because she smelt funny.
Teaching this to our children at an early age, helps them to navigate the teenage years which can be tricky around exploring sex. When they have a strong compass on what feels ok and what doesn’t, then they are more likely to trust themselves in situations and say what they need.
There can also be a fear that in sharing this information, our children may become interested in sex earlier. All the research states that if we have age-appropriate conversations with our children around sex, then they are more likely to wait they are ready and participate in less risky behaviors. Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sex and have fewer partners. (Alpert, 2012).
When talking about Sex and Sexuality, remember the basics:
- Don’t try to cover everything at once – it is about lots of little talks. Use teachable moments, such as seeing a pregnant woman becomes a great time to explain to a 4 yr old about where babies grow and how we are all born. Talking to a 9-year-old about pregnancy might involve a more in-depth conversation around conception and birth. At each age, keep it simple and talk about the biology involved. Until children start to go through puberty, most of the conversations around Sex and Sexuality are all about Science, not so much about emotions and intimacy.
- Don’t stress if you say too much. If they don’t understand or if they aren’t interested, they’ll forget and ask again when they are ready to hear it. I have had the same conversation many times with my children as they have grown. They take in the information when they are ready.
- Keep it light and remember, it is a friendly chat (not a lecture) The more comfortable you are with the conversation, the more at ease they will be and the more likely they are to ask more questions. We want them to come to you for the facts, not the internet. We also want to be aware of not setting up any shame around Sex and Sexuality.
- Don’t be surprised or shocked if they are asking a specific question, it means that they are either naturally curious or have heard something. Satisfy their curiosity by answering them and if you don’t know how to answer say “ That is a great question, let me have a think about it and get back to you”
- Books are a wonderful way to start the conversation. From looking at picture books about bodies when our kids are toddlers, to great factual books on puberty for pre-teens, these are a great way to facilitate open chats with your kids.
- You may feel embarrassed – but the more you talk, the less embarrassed you will feel. Be sure to keep checking in with your own triggers and angst around this topic. Talk to someone about how it makes you feel or look at any wounds you may have around sexuality.
- Kids learn about relationships and sexuality from us, so be aware of modeling good intimate relationships. Be playful, set boundaries and always be respectful to yourself and your partner. Talk about your own body in positive ways and model great self-care. As always in parenting, kids do what we do, not what we say.
Our goal is to raise sexually-aware teens, who have good boundaries, respect their partners and explore safely, so they can experience pleasure, intimacy, and relationship in a healthy and satisfying way. So start chatting!
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