The Right Way to Talk to Kids About Sex
These days, it seems like kids are less concerned with riding bikes around the neighborhood on summer evenings and more concerned with the opposite sex. In a world that no longer does much to protect kids from issues previously dubbed as off-limits, more and more parents are having to face the reality that times are changing.
As modern culture and societal norms change, it’s important that parents are able to change right along with it. We’re not saying that, just because the entertainment industry continues to morph into a seemingly blunt display of sexual exploits, you need to stock your middle-schooler’s dresser drawers with condoms, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore the subject all together, either.
Certain things in life are inevitable. Kids will, at some point in their childhood or adolescence, become curious about human anatomy and the opposite sex. Perhaps societal influences are speeding up that process, or maybe kids these days are just more open about their curiosities. Think back to when you were growing up. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to deal with reality television on every channel, bringing not-so-subtle suggestive messages, nudity, and foul language into our living rooms every night. But for kids these days, it’s a normal, daily occurrence.
So, when the time does come — and fear sets into every Dad as his daughter enters puberty and starts spending more time with boys in her class and less time with you — approach the subject in an honest, open, and caring manner. Let your kids know that they shouldn’t feel ashamed about their thoughts. While ignorance is bliss, you don’t want to end up wishing you’d had the talk earlier than you did. More times than not, kids are going to do as they please whether you like it or not, and the best way to protect them is to make sure they are properly educated. Even if you personally want to instill abstinence in your kids, make sure they are fully aware of all things sex-related, so they’re prone to making better choices. Trust us, you will be more thankful that you gave your kids the ability to feel safe and comfortable talking with you about their questions, rather than with their friends.
We turned to Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, licensed marriage and family therapist, for his expert advice on broaching the Birds ‘N the Bees. Here’s what Hokemeyer had to say:
Lesson 1: Educate rather than castrate
Before you can teach your kids about sex, you need to get a perspective on your own sexual history. Many parents unknowingly pass on their unresolved sexual issues to their children and in so doing, teach their children that sex is an uncomfortable and undesirable act. Start by doing a sexual inventory. What sexual aspects of your life are you guilty, resentful or angry about? Clarity on these issues will help you approach sexual discussions with your kids from an educational and helpful point of view rather than a hostile or punitive stance.
Lesson 2: Label early and often
“As soon as kids become verbal, teach them the words that define their sexual organs. Penis and vagina are not four letter words, but rather words that describe important parts of their anatomy,” Hokemeyer said.
Lesson 3: Facts are for families, fantasy is for Disney
Babies are not delivered by a stork or grow in cabbage patches. They come from penises being inserted into vaginas. Women and men make babies. Children need to learn how to take responsibility for their bodies and understand they have a responsibility for their physical and emotional health as soon as they begin to develop a sense of autonomy. It’s never too early to teach our children about the sanctity and importance of their bodies.
When searching for the right way to begin the conversation with your kids at home, be open to the fact that your kids may know even more, or less, than you’re expecting. Establishing an open line of communication with your children, and letting them know that their home is a safe environment in which they can go to you about any topic, will hopefully help make them more educated and informed individuals.