Many of us have who had, “the talk” with our parents recount moments of dread, awkwardness and discomfort. While we may have been squirming in our seats and trying to wrap our head around odd analogies, such as a potted plant and a garden hose, our parents were most likely not fairing any better, unsure of what to say or how to respond to questions. As a result of living in a sex negative society, the idea of openly talking about sex and sexuality with our partner, let alone our children, can be scary and daunting. But what if we had a guide as to how to start a conversation with our children about sexuality?
Sex Positive Parenting has been gaining more attention lately, most likely due to the lack of comprehensive sex education in American school systems. The term sex positive refers to having a positive attitude about sex and feeling comfortable with one’s own sexual identity as well as with the sexual behaviors of others. Sex positive parenting involves engaging in healthy conversations about sex and sexuality with our children while celebrating individual differences and normalizing the vast uniqueness of human sexuality. This parenting style is effective as it serves to support children’s sexuality and sexual identity by acknowledging that our children are innately sexual beings who will be, if they are not already, curious about sexuality.
The first step in practicing sex positive parenting involves increasing our comfort level. Many adults feel awkward when talking about sexuality. To build confidence, try communicating ideas about sex while using correct vocabulary and terminology. Talk to your partner or close friend and think about how you first learned about sexuality. Was your experience positive or negative? How we learn about sex and our early sexual experiences effect the development of our sexuality and sexual self. This is why parents play such a major role in influencing a child’s sexual behavior.
The next step involves communication. While we often think of “the talk” as a one-time event, the idea behind sex positive parenting involves having an ongoing conversation or series of talks, spanning your child’s development, about the different aspects of sex and sexuality. Start the conversation early as such dialogue is most effective when introduced timely in childhood. Birth and the facts of procreation are a great place to begin because more toddlers are curious about how babies are made. Information about anatomy and the difference between male and female bodies can be discussed as well. Make sure to utilize anatomically correct language, such as penis and vulva. Using slang terms like “peepee” and “coochie” can lead to confusion and make your child think there is something shameful about their body.
When your child asks about sex, make an effort to be available to answer questions honestly and without embarrassment. Try not to overwhelm them with information, rather just answer specific questions with specific and clear answers that are appropriate to their age and comprehension level. A good time to talk about puberty is around age 7 or 8. Around the pre-teen age you can start focusing on the basics of sexual behavior, human sexual response, sexual techniques and intercourse. Information about boundaries and consent, pornography, sexual abuse, love and dating, and more complex questions about sexuality can be addressed next.
A discussion about consent is a must and can be introduced as early as 1 year old. Create a list of scenarios that could occur in real life as a way to provide examples of healthy decision-making skills about sexual matters. Make an effort to utilize teachable moments, whether from movies, an experience from yourself, a friend or family member, or when your child inevitably embarrasses you by talking about their penis or vulva in public. This open and honest dialogue will allow you to share your information and knowledge, while responding to any questions your children may have.
Speaking to your children about sex and sexuality can be a scary process, especially if we as children did not have a sex positive role model. Avoid shaming, overacting, ignoring or reprimanding a child, as this can cause fear and insecurity to develop. Instead of listing off do’s and don’ts, discuss your values and boundaries surrounding sexuality, including what you think is acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior. If you have ever avoided or ignored a sexual question that was asked, don’t fear. I have listed some resources below that you can use to increase your confidence and knowledge-base when relaying information to your child(ren).
If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about sex education workshops, please feel free to contact me at 917.476.9381 or CLICK HERE. For more information and resources about how to talk to your child(ren) about sex, here is a list of books to utilize:
- The Quick Start Guide To Sex-Positive Parenting By Airial Clark
- Where Did I Come From? By Peter Mayle
- It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley
- It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley
- One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine
- From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children – From Infancy to Middle School by Debra W. Haffner
- I Said No! A Kid-To-Kid Guide To Keeping Your Kid Parts Private by Zack and Kimberly King
- Beyond the Big Talk: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens – From Middle School to High School and Beyond by Debra W. Haffner and Alyssa Haffner Tartaglione
- Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask): The Secret to Surviving Your Child’s Sexual Development from Birth to the Teens By: Justin Richardson and Mark Schuste
- 100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents: Straight Answers to Teens’ Questions About Sex, Sexuality, and Health by Elisabeth Henderson
- For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health by Al Vernacchio
- The Rest of the Way: Healing Barriers Between Gays, Lesbians, and Their Parents by Enid Duchin Jackowitz