One minute we are toilet training our little ones, and congratulating ourselves on that accomplishment, and before we know it is time to have the ‘sex talk’.
Yes, our children grow up so fast and with technology racing ahead our children are exposed to an incredible amount of information, and not all of it is appropriate. So when you feel it might be the right time to share the sacred knowledge of ‘how babies are made’ and how much fun you can have making them, get your skates on, because they may already know most of the facts.
Often ‘tweens’ think they know everything when really the fact is there is a lot of confusing, conflicting advice about sexual behaviour, STD’s and what is ‘normal’. Not only do their peers share naive information, but now we have to deal with the internet, twitter, face book and there is some very dangerous information out in cyberland. It is a parent’s role to help their child know the difference between myth and fact.
It is up to parents to lovingly share their child’s education in their developing sexuality and dealing with life as a teenager. Many schools have great programs in sexual education so it would be wise to become informed about what type of format and information is being presented to your child so you can enhance the process.
- If possible discuss with your partner how you will approach this subject with your child and what sort of information you will share. Sometimes a mentor your child feels safe with and relates too can be part of this journey of discovery.
- Timing. Delivery is important. Wait until the subject comes up in the media or a conversation. Start with a few gentle non confronting questions and see how they react. Your child may know more than you realise so you won’t need to go over all ready known territory, just make sure they have the facts right.
- Sometimes kids will say they ‘know it all’ just to save embarrassment, don’t force the issue, take baby steps, this subject does not need to be delivered in a lecture at the dining room table as everyone will be squirming.
- If your child says they are not going to have this conversation, let it go. Reapproach them when they are relaxed and ask some nonchalant questions.
- Respect where your child is at. Some children will go into denial as the thought of growing up, having periods, voices changing, sprouting body hair and experiencing parts of their bodies changing is just too daunting.
- Reflect on your families values and ask for feedback on your child’s personal values and how they can use them to enhance their well being
- Be honest and direct in your conversation and if you don’t know the answer to a question look it up together. Family planning S.A. or Shine have informative, relatable sites for families.
- Body image; help your child understand their uniqueness and how to honour themselves and not compare to others. Discuss the damaging contribution the media has on body image and how your child feels about that.
- Focus on creating a respectful, trusting manner so your child can feel confident to come to you in the future if they have a problem.
- Be proactive instead of reactive, by creating a safe emotional space, so your child feels secure in disclosing their fears and actions to you.
- Gently share any fears you have about teenage pregnancy, drugs and foolish decisions, without reacting fearfully in the form of threats and predicting the worst scenario.
- Use humour when appropriate and remember some kids as they mature are ‘grossed out’ by the thought of their parents having sex or being naked.
- Often talking about what is considered ‘normal’ with body shapes is important. Help your child understand that everyone is unique and breast, penis and body size vary considerably
- Be open to discussing what is ‘normal’ sexual behaviour, as it is a mine-field out there. What is ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’, ‘kinky’? Be very mindful of what they are being exposed to on the internet.
- When sharing information about periods with daughters, it is very important to be tactful, gentle and factual. This is a life changing event, it can be a time for celebration of womanhood and thoughtful rituals can mark this special time.
- Some women come together and create a special ceremony, this of course depends on your daughter’s wishes and your families values. A warm bath filled with rose petals and essentials oils is calming and soothing to any woman with period symptoms.
- Masturbation can be an embarrassing subject; but your child has actually been practising this since they were little. Assuring ‘tweens’, especially boys, that this is a normal, healthy action (that can escalate in the teenage years), may help them remove any feelings of guilt or shame.
- Reflecting on the importance of respecting others emotions when being intimate is paramount. Teaching our children that love and emotions are a very important part of any sexual expression will help them build healthy, respectful and happy relationships
- Discussing STD’s, contraception, pregnancy, and how to say ‘No’ are valuable, but may not need to be discussed straight away. Baby steps are important so as not to overwhelm kids with too much information. Your child’s maturity and natural wonder will be markers in how you deliver and share your wisdom.
- One of the greatest gifts you can share with your children is how you role model in your relationship. This is one of the key ways in which your child will learn about love, sharing physical and emotional intimacy, respecting others and how fulfilling a loving relationship can be.
Life is a work in progress, focus on what is working for you, practise and if you fall down, dust yourself off and get up and your children will forgive you if you stumble around the whole ‘sex talk’ episode. Keep it light and have a bit of fun. You can laugh about it later in life when the embarrassment is over. There is a wealth of reliable information available; tap into it together and have a wonderful journey of discovery together.