Let’s get straight to the point: Sex is a thing. And as a parent, you are keenly aware of that fact that your kids may not know about it yet, but they will. And boy will they have questions.
The prospect of this may seem daunting and fear-inducing. Fortunately, no parent has died from this phenomena (or so I hear), and the nerves are totally normal. Allow me the opportunity to provide some introductory pro-tips for approaching the subject with your favorite younger humans.
Evaluate Your Own Experience
Before speaking to your kids, take some time to reflect on your own sex-ed experience. Here are some questions to get you started:
- How did you learn about sex and issues around sexuality?
- What was helpful to you, and what would you have liked approached differently?
- Are you and your partner on the same page about how you’d like to approach these questions?
- What were the messages you received about sexuality growing up, and were they accurate?
- What messages about sex and sexuality would you like to send to your children?
Accept That It Probably Won’t Be on Your Timing
I know my father wishes I hadn’t heard the word “sex” uttered until my mid- thirties. Of course, he was in for a rude awakening the day my rosy-cheeked 8-year-old self came barging into the family room with my laundry list of questions.
The fact is, most children will develop a basic understanding of sex by the time they’re in 2nd grade. The messages they receive around this, whether accurate or inaccurate, will influence their view of sex for years to come. An old professor of mine once admitted he believed until age 16 that pregnancy occurred as a result of kissing- a message he was sent by a peer in grade school. I say this not to scare you but empower you. Prepare for the fact that these conversations can and should happen earlier than you may assume. Consider this a blessing! Knowing this allows you greater control over the messages your children receive on the topic.
Posture is Key
If you’re like me, you like to be prepared. However, none of us will be able to anticipate exactly the kinds of questions our kids will have, or the circumstances around which these questions arise.
Just recently my older sister approached me with an anecdote about her 10-year old son. She told me how he came to her in a state of confusion and partial upset after a friend claimed he and his best friend “must have gay feelings for each other” because they spent a great deal of time together and were clearly comfortable in each others’ company.
At this point, my sister had a choice: dismiss/shut down the questions, or embrace a posture of openness (props to her for doing the latter). In embracing this open stance, she communicated to my nephew that she is a safe person to come to about potentially embarrassing conversations- sex and otherwise. She knew if he didn’t feel comfortable going to her, he’d inevitably go to someone (or something) else for help. Her priority was not having “all the right answers”, but rather being a resource and minimizing potential shame.
Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable
Children are thermometers for their environments. Any lack of comfort on your part around the issue will breed discomfort in your children. My advice? Get comfortable with relevant jargon. You know what I mean- instead of referring to private areas as “tutus and hoo-has”, get biological. The more you do it, the easier it will be. Promise.