The how, when, and why of talking to your kids about sex (PART 2)
For those of us who are wondering if we've already blown it in instilling a healthy and informed understanding of sex and sexuality into our kids by being proactive in talking to them about sex, I've got some good news...it's never too late!
I thought it might be helpful to follow up the last post with some Frequently Asked Questions as I interact with parents on this subject, as well as some great books that help make these conversations easier!
HOW OLD SHOULD MY KIDS BE BEFORE I START TALKING TO THEM ABOUT SEX?
Start when they are little! When your kids are learning the parts of their bodies, lay the foundation by using medical language as naturally as possible to talk about ALL of their anatomy, not just noses and belly buttons! When they are a little older, have conversations with them about how babies are born. Progress from there to telling them about how babies are conceived.
Laying this foundation for naturally and comfortably talking about the basics of the human body and the reproductive system, will reap tremendous rewards as "the plot thickens" and you are having conversations with them about their own changing bodies and their own budding sexuality.
WHAT IF I DID NOT TALK TO MY KIDS AT AN EARLY AGE? IS IT TOO LATE?
I am a firm believer that it is never too late! Even if your kids are adults, it is a powerful thing to say to them, "you know, I really blew it in this realm...I'm sorry I wasn't more of a sounding board for you as you were growing up and navigating the world of sexuality." What a gateway to healthy, restorative conversations with your adult kids!
But if your kids are still in the home, just jump on in! Acknowledge that it may be awkward since you haven't talked about these things before, and lead the way in naturally weaving conversations about sex into your time with your kids!
SHOULD I PREPARE FOR "THE BIG TALK"? IF SO, HOW?
It's actually far more effective to have dozens of mini-conversations, rather than "the big one". A good philosophy is to be the one to bring up the conversation on a regular basis, but then to simply answer the questions your kids are asking. As a benign example, If they are simply asking how a baby eats in mom's tummy, then you don't need to go into a discussion about contraception. Keep it simple! And it is important to remember that kids typically have about a 3-5 minute threshold before they start feeling flooded or distracted. We may need to let go of our hope for having a long and meaningful conversation, and lay a foundation by first having many, many 3 minute conversations.
And as I said in my last post, it is so important to undergird EVERY conversation about sex, gender, sexuality and relationships with the importance of RESPECT—for self and for others!
WHAT IF THEY ASK PERSONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MY OWN SEXUALITY?
This is terrifying for many parents, and is a major reason that we avoid having conversations with our kids. It is okay to tell your child that some questions are personal and are to remain your own story. When my kids ask question about my own sex life (i.e. when it dawned on my daughter that my husband and I have had sex more frequently than the three times my kids were conceived), I just tell them that "sex is a very natural part of any healthy marriage", but that the details are part of our private relationship. It is important, however, to share the stories you are comfortable sharing with your kids...whether it was that first awkward kiss that you wish you had been courageous enough to say 'no' to, or the thought process behind your decision about when you were ready (or not) for sex. It means so much to our kids to know that we remember our own curiosities in adolescence, the questions and decisions we were processing, our desire to fit in and to be loved. It is a beautiful gift to equip your kids to navigate the complex world of sexuality while they are still in the safety of your own home.
That said, it is important to do business with your own story so that you are free to support your kids as they develop theirs. The biggest reason that parents drop the ball in equipping our kids with confidence and respect in their sexuality, is our own shame or lack of confidence. Welcome the process of your own growth so that you can empower your kids’ growth!
ARE THERE ANY RESOURCES THAT I CAN USE TO SUPPORT MY KIDS' LEARNING IN THIS AREA?
There are many fantastic books about our bodies, the reproductive system, and sexuality! Do your own research, but here are a few I've found to be helpful to get you started. And remember that these books are to springboard your own conversations with your kids, not replace them!
*As with all of my book referrals, I don't necessarily agree with everything in these books. Please glean what you find helpful, and leave behind what you don't...and have conversations with your kids about WHY you have the values that shape your thinking about sex!
For younger children:
It's Not the Stork: a book about girls, boys, babies, bodies, family and friend
It's So Amazing: a book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies, and families
I Said No! A kid to kid guide to keeping private parts private
The Care and Keeping of the Younger You: The body book for younger girls
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today's Young Kids
S.E.X, second edition: The all-you-need-to-know sexuality guide to get you through your teens and twenties (for older teens)