Where to talk to your child about sex?

I’m driving along with my son in the car and we are listening to the radio and a song is playing about sex. I might say “Hey do you know what he is singing about” At home we often watch ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘The Bachelorette’ together as a family and I sometimes ask my children things like; ‘Do you think it’s okay to date and kiss more than one woman/man at a time?’, ‘Do you think it’s important to get to know someone well before you marry or commit to them, or to have sex with them?’

Opportunities come up all the time and when you least expect them. I often get asked …Where do you chat with your children about sex? The answer is simple, in everyday life you will find opportunities, especially if you look out for them. Television holds endless opportunities, advertising, various series and movies. Often, it’s in everyday life situations and spending time with your children, like on road-trips or taking your child to school or weekend sports game. Just chatting, listening to music, watching an ad or seeing a billboard or any other form of media. You might read an article from the paper about abuse to an older child or talk about someone you see or know who is pregnant or getting married, or even asking questions about what happens at school (a girl kissed a boy etc).

Many parents think that the sexual content in TV, movies, and magazines, goes over kids’ heads.  Even if kids don’t look like they are paying attention, they pick up a surprising amount of sex education, much of it inappropriate, from the media. And they are exposed to this from a very early age.  When kids are exposed to sexual scenes, humour or information, they need their parents to help them understand what it means.

So let the conversations begin, wherever you are!!

Talk early …talk often. When should you talk to your child about sex.

I love being a parent, but far out, it’s been hard work and still is, even though my children are older and me wiser (ha ha). Each child is different and goes through different stages and needs to know different things at different times, right? So at what age do you tell them about sex? One of my dear friends rang me up and was so excited she had had ‘THE TALK’ with her 8 year-old and proceeded to tell me about what she had said, as if it were over.

Talking and teaching about sexuality is a life-long conversation. There is not a certain age when you say “it’s time”, but it’s important that we have small continuous, truthful, conversations throughout their lives. Otherwise, if we don’t, the media, friends or technology most certainly will, and often this information is devoid of values, beliefs, and expectations. The earlier you start, definitely makes it easier to begin and continue conversations whatever they are - even though they can still be challenging. Remember, sexuality is not just talking about sexual intercourse, so your conversations may start off when a toddler talks about the right names for their genitals. If your child grows up knowing about things from the beginning, then not only will they feel freer and more comfortable when talking to you, and asking you questions, but it will probably make it much easier to continue the dialogue even through adolescence. It’s never too late of course, but sometimes if you have never talked about sex in your family it’s harder to start conversations. One of my daughters up until the age of 11 was really open, and the other one very private up to the age of 17, and my son is a bit of both. Yes, they are all very different, however, my children have always known that they can chat to me without judgement or fear even if I don’t agree with them or don’t know the answers. If I had not started the conversation early, it would have been a whole lot harder.

So, is there a certain time to start? Yes … it’s today!

Conversation starters Questions to ask your child around the topic of sexuality?

Sometimes… well most of the time it’s awkward when we talk around the topic of sex, and we don’t always know what to ask our children, especially when your child does not ask you any questions and you feel embarrassed. Here are some questions to get you started. Of course they will not apply to every child as they are at different ages and stages. You can also add your own. Just remember the ‘kiss’ rule (keep it simple stupid) and try not to look like you are really embarrassed or disapproving, even if you are!!! (or be real and tell them you are embarrassed).

How do you think babies are made?

Did you know that there are 2 ways that a baby can be made?

Do you know where babies live and grow and how they are born? (or come out of a woman’s body)

Can you name the private parts of your body?

Do you know what the word puberty means and what changes happen when you go through it?

Do you know anyone that is going through puberty at school? How can you tell?

Do you know what a condom does?

What do you think the word sex means?

Why do you think that people have sex?

Have you ever heard of the word consent?

Do you think it’s important to have a relationship with someone before you have sex with them?

What makes a healthy or unhealthy relationship?

Do you know what gender means and gender diversity?

Do you know what pornography is?

Do you know what transgender means?

Do you know what STD stands for?

Do you know what PMS stands for?

What age do you think you should have sex?

What is safe sex?

What is a homophobia?

Have you heard of sexting?

 GOT THE IDEA? NOW GO FOR IT

How do we talk to our kids about sex? (Part-3)

I’ll  never forget when my 12 year old asked “What’s a blow job? If I had acted shocked or horrified my son may have thought that I was not a parent who he could talk to about anything, even though we were at the supermarket at the time and I nearly had heart failure. I proceeded to tell him that I would be very happy to chat about it in the car on our way home. (My heart was racing!!!)

As parents we are a role model to our children no matter what we do or have done. Parents are a kid’s life-long allies regardless of what’s going on for them. Although our children may not act like it, studies suggest that they WANT their parents to talk to them about sexuality. Our children watch our every move and they pay attention to our every word and attitude (as frustrating, funny and difficult as this is at times).

Here are some general suggestions (Part 3) about how to talk about challenging questions around sex education.

:) Talk about your own values, beliefs, faith and culture. Ultimately it is up your child to choose but they are watching your authenticity and integrity as they make decisions for themselves.

:) Be respectful even if you don't agree. Don’t just react or talk at them, ask them questions too. To tell you the truth, as a parent this one is hard especially when it comes to teenagers. You want what’s best for your children and often they learn from their mistakes.

:) Don’t leave it up to them to start the conversations, even when you feel awkward, surprised or upset.

:) Be patient and forgiving (forgive yourself too). Parenting is difficult. I have had to forgive myself many times for my comments and reactions.

:) Get support. Talk to your friends about their experience and advice and professionals too.

:) Get educated and get involved in your child’s world e.g. social media and the music they like, (this can give you great conversation material).

:) Last but not least, in our crazy busy world we need TIME, TIME and more TIME to spend with our children. From my experience this is when I connect and have important conversations. Try to make your home the place where they and their friends feel welcome.

So parents “Get your brave on!” - because now you know how.

 

How do we talk to our kids about sex? (Part-2)

I’ll  never forget when my 7 year old asked “So if it takes an egg from a mum and a sperm from a dad and they have to come together to make a baby..how does that happen?” Believe it or not I had been facilitating sex education programs for at least 5 years at that stage and  answering 1000s of questions from parents and children easily….but when it’s your daughter asking…. I still hesitated!!

Here are some general suggestions (Part-2) about challenging questions around sex education.

Take the opportunity to talk about what you see or hear on the TV or in movies, music, social media and any other form of media. I know that this might sound rather strange but I will be forever grateful for reality TV. It has started so many conversations with my children around the topic of sexuality, consent and relationships from “Married at First Sight” to “The Bachelor”, tampon adds, erectile dysfuction adds and the endless songs about sex.

So instead of turning off the radio (depending on the age of your child of course) why not encourage dialogue?  Questions like, Do you know what that is about?  Validate your child’s questions and feelings and do not avoid them.

If your children are anything like mine, they pick up on my feelings so if you appear overly anxious or angry, they might feel the same way. If you say things like..that’s disgusting or never ask me that question again…this gives a child the impression that you do not want or intend to talk about it.

Remember that you can’t just have ‘the talk’ once, talking and teaching about sexuality is a lifelong process.

What we think and what we say effects their knowledge, attitudes and values…and it is the same when it comes to talking to your children about sex.

So when your child asks you “what is a condom?  How will you answer them?

How do we talk to our kids about sex? (Part-1)

I’ll never forget when my 10 year old asked me “How do people have sex?” and then “How many times a week do you have sex?” or when my 5 year old asked me when I was showering “When will I get hair around my private parts?”. What would you have said or say if your child asked you these questions? (and the many other challenging questions that children may ask)

These general suggestions still apply as children’s questions become more and more complex as they get older. (take it from me, as a mum of 3 older teens)

:) Answer your child’s questions openly and honestly, provide accurate information. Sometimes it’s harder to undo the myths and distractions that you might have told them already. For example the endless (untrue stories about how babies are made… ie, storks, ordering them online, saying it’s disgusting etc)  

:) Use the correct words and keep your answers uncomplicated and short so they can actually understand what you are saying. Take it from me because I often used to launch into a tell it all story when my children were young and they didn’t actually want a long answer…or understand what on earth I was talking about. By the way remember, if you don’t know the answers, (that’s okay) tell them you will find out, then look it up. (I still constantly do this)

:) Tell your child that you are nervous or embarrassed and may not know all of the answers. This does not mean you are a failure as a parent quite the opposite in fact. It shows them that parents are still learning and that that’s a good thing.

The good news is that by making an effort and talking about sex with your child (even if inside you are cringing!) sends the message that you want your child to come to you with any questions or worries that they may have. 

So don't give up …you can do this!!

Make conversations with your child about sexuality happen in 2018.

In Sydney Australia (where I live) the week has arrived! After a long summer break, parents are preparing for their children to return to school. It is a time of new beginnings, full of mixed emotions, excitement or even apprehension (just to name a few).

Let’s make 2018 a fresh start in our conversations too about sexuality with our children, however you feel or whatever you have said or done in the past. Let’s hit that ‘refresh’ button and make it a year of new possibilities, conscious conversations and building relationships so that the potential to talk about sexuality happens each and every day.

Each child is an individual, they have different personalities, questions, understanding and maturity. Let’s celebrate each child’s individual uniqueness and talk about sexuality at their level.

Sexuality education is not about a ‘one off, one-way scary, pushy, conversation’. It’s about the building of relationships, for honest and informative lifelong conversations. So, as we begin another school year, let's keep the focus on the daily opportunities that arise when we are watching TV or driving our children to sport. By talking about the ads about tampons on the radio or TV, or how the teacher at school has a baby inside of her, or why your son or daughter has started being more than friends with friends or what the words in a song actually mean, or what two people half naked hugging on a billboard has to do with buying a pair of jeans. In our daily talks together let’s also include meaningful chats about consent, pleasure, respect (of our own bodies and others), choices, relationships and intimacy, our personal values and our faith. Remember sexuality is social, personal, physical, emotional and spiritual. Let’s start afresh and make the often challenging conversations around sexuality in 2018 happen!

What does the S word mean?

Mum or dad what is sex? Have you ever wondered how you would answer this question if your child asked you? Or have they already? Even though you don’t have to have all the answers and it’s definitely not for a once only conversation …where would you start?

Well first of all we need to know what sex means to us, before we even talk about sex with our kids. It’s really important that we understand that sex is not just sexual intercourse. It’s so much more.

One dictionary defines sex as:

1. The sum of the characteristics that distinguish organisms on the basis of their reproductive function

2. Sex is short for sexual intercourse

So that's it? Is it as simple as that? In my quest for the right definition I asked ‘google’ which as you can imagine had hundreds of very interesting answers.

Sex can mean different things to different people. There is not one universal definition of sex, but a variety of perspectives.

Regardless of your beliefs, faith, values or morals, sex encompasses a huge part of our lives, we are born as sexual beings. Sex is social, personal, physical emotional and spiritual.

It’s also about bodies, reproduction, puberty, gender diversity, sexual orientation, love, closeness, identity, choices, consent, respect, discipline, responsibility, safety, authenticity, attraction, sexual feelings, pleasure, sexual expression, personal values, choices, pregnancy, relationships, beliefs, faith, foreplay, morals, attitudes, behaviour, STIs, body image, abuse, IVF, and more.

It’s about caring for, respecting and enjoying yourself, your body, and others. It can be a source of deep joy but it can also be one of great hardship and destruction in lots of different parts of our lives.

 

Often society and the media makes sex all about pleasure and body parts with little or no consequences. This means it’s more important than ever that your kids know what it is and what it means to you. But just as the definition of sex can be long and complicated so can the answer…

So, if your child asks you, “What is sex?” What will you say?