By Guest Blogger, Alyse Kelly-Jones
So you’re strolling along like a normal parent, making sure your kids are studying their schoolwork, watching out for strangers, and learning their bible studies. And then someone mentions that three-letter word, SEX.
That’s right, parents. Even if you are working diligently to instill all your work ethics for schools, thoughts about strangers and strong religious beliefs, you still need to be talking to them about sex.
Each of the other items mentioned above has to do with your values. You want your children to have the same values you have. You don’t want your kids learning religious beliefs from the friends at school or on the internet. But that is exactly where they will get their sexual information from if you fail to step up to the front of the class.
Every day in my sexual medicine practice I see women who were taught little to no information about sex from their parents. They learned it on their own or from their partners. And where do most men learn their sexual information? They learn it from pornography or their friends, who probably learned theirs from pornography.
And those little health classes in school that your child might be exposed to in certain grades…they’re not nearly enough either. Those are just scratching the surface of a complicated, emotionally laden subject.
Here’s the thing: I know most of you will be terrified and/or embarrassed at the thought of talking explicitly about sex with your child. Which means you’re going to need a little help before you jump into that subject. And remember, this sort of thing should be a conversation, not a lecture, something that happens over a number of different talks and not something that happens once then is never mentioned again.
Fortunately, there are some fabulous tools that can help you prepare for these conversations. For the best results, you need to start these conversations when your children are young, to give them a good basis to understand their own bodies.
For 5 to 8 year olds, I recommend you read But How’d I Get in There in the First Place by Deborah Roffman. It is a very easy read. You can underline or fold over pages you think are especially important. This book will help you encourage your children to call their body parts by their proper names. In other words, call a vagina a vagina.
For your sweet little 9 to 12 year old, who still thinks you walk on water, I recommend reading to them from What’s Happening to My Body by Lynda Madaras. There is a book for girls and a book for boys. You read the book together and get to know all the slang words for body parts and what is going to happen in puberty. This is a wonderful time to spend with your child.
Then they turn into a teenager and, no matter who you are, you are now officially stupid. And you will be stupid until they are about 25 and have a fully matured frontal lobe. If you have waited until this time to have the talk, you might be in trouble, but all is not lost. I recommend Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense about Sex by Deborah Roffman. You need to buy two books…one for you and one for them. Assign chapters to read and then try to have a discussion about the chapter. Your teen will resist, but you must provide them with this important information.
Everyone has certain moral values when it comes to sex. The best way to make sure your child shares yours is hold conversations with him or her about it. Get the information you need to pass along your values without being embarrassed about the whole thing. Remember, it’s only natural. You can do it.
Alyse Kelly-Jones is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with Mintview Women’s Care and co-founder of the Center for Sexual Health & Education at the Ballantyne Institute.