As a kid I hardly dared say the word, as though it were some sort of profanity. As an adult, I evolved to the point I could talk about it without blushing.
Then I became a parent.
Suddenly I realized I was responsible for teaching another human being all the facts of life, including the facts of life. It was a horrifying thought. I mean, the last person any of us want to talk with about sex is our parents! And now I was the parent…
In preparation for the day I would have to explain to my kids the fundamentals of sex, I spent the past year picking the brains of fellow parents. I wanted to know how and when to have “the talk” with my kids. I’m raising my kids in a conservative home where we don’t believe abstinence is an out-dated ideal; however, after my year of study, I have come to the following conclusion:
The way many parents teach their kids about sex is out-dated, especially parents who are teaching their kids abstinence only.
Think about it. If you came from a conservative, Christian home, most likely your education about sex was a one-time conversation, vague, shrouded in embarrassment, and punctuated with the message of “just don’t do it!” The end result was a lot of embarrassment for everyone and a weird, abstract idea of sex as something special but also intrinsically forbidden. You probably walked away embarrassed to even say the word sex, yet fiercely curious about it.
While this method of sex education has never really been ideal, in today’s society, it’s ridiculously inadequate. We live in a world where casual sex is the norm, where teenage sex is almost expected, and where all curious minds have to do is type a few words into a Google browser, undoubtedly the worst place for kids to be looking for answers about sex.
For this reason, I have set a goal. I want to make sex education at my home open, direct, and honest. It’s a daunting idea, but one I’m mentally preparing myself for now. In fact, when I told my husband my plan, he walked around the house yelling the words “penis” and “vagina” to the kids, so I think we’re on our way to nailing this one.
In reality, I probably have a little time before I have to get in depth about sex with my kids. My son is only five, and my daughter is only two, so at this point we keep our conversation focused on private parts and how to respond to inappropriate touching. However, I am trying right now to establish a habit of asking my kids specific questions about what they are thinking and feeling, so they get used to talking to me about what is happening in their lives and with their bodies.
Open education and dialogue about sex is something that needs to start when kids are young, so that it can develop into a comfortable conversation. We as adults set the stage to make sex scary, embarrassing, or a normal part of life, depending on how we approach. Asking pointed questions and taking time to listen, without freaking out or lecturing, is vital if we want our kids to feel like they can talk to us when they encounter sexual material and experiences — which WILL happen at some point.
A few months ago I read a blog post from a girl who was raised in a very strict Christian home down South. The importance of chastity was so ingrained in her that when she got married and lost her virginity, she went through a huge internal struggle that eventually lead her to leave her faith because she could not reconcile her sexual feelings and experiences with her religious life. How sad is that? And a clear example of why talking about sex in ways that emphasize only the need to avoid it is harmful.
Sex is a natural part of life, and it’s a great part of life! Turning it into something that is taboo or embarrassing to talk about cripples our kids’ development and ensures they won’t come to us for help or guidance.
So let’s talk about sex! Because if we don’t do the talking, someone else will.
P.S. For anyone who’s interested, I have listened to a couple of Podcasts from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a Mormon sex therapist, and she’s saying things about sex many of us need to hear. She’s kind of edgy for a Mormon. Some of you might not agree with everything she has to say, but I pretty much wish I could just hire her to educate my kids about sex! I’m including a link to her pod casts below.by