“The talk”…. Or so it’s called. But the topic of sex should be more of an ongoing dialogue as our kids grow and develop. In my years of child and family therapy, I’ve found this ongoing approach to be the most productive for healthy sexual development. However, this isn’t at all how I was raised.
I grew up in a strict Catholic household where sex was a covert, very “hush hush” topic. I was one of those teens who secretly started shaving her legs and wearing a bra to school without my mom knowing. She acted so weird and uncomfortable around the topic of sex, so it felt wrong to bring it up. If there was a kissing scene in a movie, my mom or dad would get all flustered and embarrassed, fumbling with the remote in an effort to fast forward as quickly as possible. My mom actually believed girls should have earlier curfews than boys because girls can “get pregnant”. So yes, sex was not talked about in my household growing up. I had to learn about it from my friends, books, and experience. I don’t want my daughter to have a similar experience. In fact, she’s only four months old and we’ve already started reading What Makes a Baby. Overkill? Probably. She most certainly doesn’t understand the content yet, but it’s never too early to start broaching the topic in an age appropriate manner.
I recently came across a great article titled Talking to Kids About Sex and Relationships. The article interviewed a clinical psychologist, Dr. Abigael San, who discusses the following tips for parents when talking to kids about sex:
Tolerate the awkwardness: As a parent, be a role model and tolerate the awkwardness of the conversation so that your child feels less awkward.
Don’t talk directly about them: Use examples from movies or books. Talking about sex in the third person can be a less invasive and will help your child feel safer.
Don’t cringe and switch channels: This type of behavior instills the belief that sex is bad, shameful, secretive, and embarrassing.
Teach a child to stand his/her ground: Teach your child from an early age that he or she does not have to go along with the crowd. If your kiddo learns this early and is able to stand up to teasing and other forms of peer pressure, he or she is more likely to feel confident in the future when it comes to resisting dangerous or promiscuous behavior.
Get savvy with social media: Don’t be a total stalker but certainly keep tabs on your teen’s social media accounts and have frequent conversations about what your teen and his or her friends are posting.
Don’t judge: Validate your child’s emotions and try not to come across as critical or demeaning. Saying something judgy now only lessens your chance for open communication with your child in the future.
Start talking young: It’s never to early, but you certainly want to talk about sex in an age appropriate manner. A conversation about sex with a 4-year-old will thus be very different from a dialogue with a 12-year-old.
Talking to Kids About Sex and Relationships is a great read, and I encourage you to check it out for further details. If you have additional questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to post below or contact me.