I want to talk about sex this week. I’ve done a podcast on drugs, so just rock and roll to go after this.
Here’s the thing.
We’ve abdicated part of our role as parents, to schools.
You know I heard something really interesting a while ago – the first information that a child hears about sex, sticks! It becomes their prevailing view. That’s quite a scary thought when you think of how much information there is out there.
There’ll be some of you as parents who don’t feel remotely awkward talking about sex, but I suspect the majority of parents find it a bit of an awkward subject, even if it’s only because we think the child might find it awkward.
But the question we need to be asking ourselves is ‘where do we want their views and perspectives to come from?
I know that we’ll all have different opinions on what children should or shouldn’t be taught, But the point I’m making is that we can get in ahead of the school and ensure that their foremost understanding about bodies, sex and all that goes with it, comes from the people who love them most and care the most about their developing perceptions.
I know that some parents find it hard because they wonder when the magic moment is to open up the conversation. Will I be putting ideas into their heads before they’re ready? Or will someone else get there first if I don’t. And I get that. You want to get your timing right.
I’d probably say that biologically they can handle more than we think they can because they’re quite fact based when they’re young.
I’d say better a little too early than a little too late.
You can start by asking them what they know. I asked one of ours in a casual conversation a few years ago and he quickly assured me that he knew how babies were made.
"How?" I asked.
"Well," he said. "You wee on a stick and if you get two blue lines you get a baby and if you get one blue line, you don’t."
Brilliant! But a little sketchy
You’ll know as you get into the conversation how much they can handle and how much is too much. They might ask questions. If they do – answer the question and then see if you have the capacity for more information. Little and often makes it a normal conversation rather than a big download in one go.
Breaching that first conversation could be your biggest hurdle. Once you’ve had a fairly light and easy conversation about some basic facts you’ve built a basis on which you can build.
Find some good books and let them do some exploring themselves, set them a page or two and suggest you come back and chat about it together in a week or so.
If you have to, practice saying the awkward words into your mirror until you can do them without turning purple or smirking. Give body parts their proper names. I know that front-bottom is a popular term – but seriously, if anything’s going to confuse your child – that is!
If we want our kids to be able to have mature conversations we need to model that. Making light of it or making it into a joke is setting them up for thinking it’s embarrassing before that thought has even occurred to them and then it’s harder to return from. And that goes for our casual conversation, not just our intentional informational talk. How we talk about sex in our home will absolutely impact their views and perceptions about sex and about themselves.
Remember, this isn’t just about sex, it’s about their relationship with their body, their feelings and the changes going on physically and mentally. The more normal and acceptable you can be the more they’ll know that you are an honest, reliable and easy person to talk to.
Find out what your school plans to share and when. See what topics are going to be covered and front-run the school. Be the first to lay the groundwork for a life time of perceptions.