Talk to your kids about sex – or someone else will.
Let’s face it, no one really wants to have The Talk. Not the kids, and not the parents. It’s awkward. And embarrassing. But very very necessary. And once you get going, you’ll find it’s easier than you think.
Kids are naturally curious about sex, says Claudia Abelheim, director of Family Life Centre in Parkwood. ‘When our educators go into schools to facilitate our sex ed programme, the children respond really well. They have so many anxieties and fears around the subject, that when we come in they are bursting with questions.’
If they don’t have access to proper information from parents, educators and other reliable sources, they will get it from less reliable sources – friends, television and movies, and increasingly, online porn. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11, according to social media law expert Emma Sadleir.
‘If your child has a smartphone, or your child’s friend has a smartphone, they can see everything the internet has to offer,’ says Claudia. ‘It’s not helpful for parents to be in denial about it. Rather, talk to your children in an honest and open way. Even if your child is getting Sex Ed at school, they need to talk to you about it too. It is really important for you to be your child’s primary sex educator, and to remember this isn’t a once-off conversation.’
How to have The Talk
- Accept that children and teens are or will be sexual beings – even if it’s hard for parents to think of them that way.
- Don’t wait for them to come and ask you. Start the conversation.
- Ask them what they know, so you can gently correct misinformation and fill in gaps.
- Talk to them about where they are in their development and what they want to know.
- Speak to them at an age-appropriate level, in language they understand.
- Use the proper terms for all the body parts.
- You don’t have to explain everything in one go! You will need to talk to them again and again as they grow up and face different issues.
- Find the answers if you don’t know them. You don’t have to be an expert!
- Let kids know they can always come to you with questions and concerns.
Focus on these key messages
The changes to your body are normal
It’s scary having things growing and sprouting, but it’s much less so if kids know exactly what to expect. Puberty is a process. The changes start earlier for some, later for others, and will continue for years. This is also a good time to mention that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. The bodies they see in ads, in movies and – especially! – in pornography are not what ‘real life’ bodies look like.
Sex is natural and good
Don’t create a culture of shame around sex. They should know that sexual feelings and fantasies are normal and healthy – but that doesn’t mean they always have to be acted upon. As well as making babies, sex is pleasurable and positive – at the right time and with the right person.
It’s OK to be curious
Hey, sex is an important part of life, and it’s OK to think and talk about it. But kids should know they are exposed to lots of misinformation from sources like other kids or pornography. They should rather get their information from you or from their sex ed teacher or educator.
Take care of yourself
Every person should take pride and enjoyment in their own body, and look after it. Kids must be told: your body is your own – no one can touch your private parts without permission or a medical reason. Older kids need to be empowered with information about contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
Take care of your partner
Everyone is entitled to safe, healthy, mutually enjoyable relationships. Talk about consent, empathy, respect and the importance of communication.
FEATURE: KATE SIDLEY AND IMAGE FOTOLIA.COM