Most people shy away from talking about sex, and parents are not left out too. Talking to their children about sex can be most uncomfortable and challenging. Parents influence the attitudes of their kids about sex and relationships more than they realise. It is a myth that kids do not want to talk to their parents about love and sex. They are more than willing to talk, but the way the society refrains from talking about sex limits them.
Our kids live in a highly sexualised society, where they are exposed to sexual languages, images and behaviours. It is therefore very important that parents talk early enough about sex to their kids. Research has shown that most teenagers are confused and anxious about developing healthy romantic relationships; also, casual sex, sexual harassment and sexual assault rates are pervasive among young people.
No matter how uncomfortable it is talking to your kids on sex, doing so gives them comprehensive sex education and keeps them safer. Plus if you don’t tell them, they will hear about it somewhere else. When you imagine the negative consequences that your kids may be exposed to if you don’t talk to them, this will drive you, even more, to talk to them on it.
Start early: Talking to small children
Most parents feel that their kids should get older before they talk about sex. In research conducted in Canada, the right age to talk about sex was discovered to be at age 11. This age is however late to start discussing with your kids about their sexuality and sex. The goal here is to normalize sex education when they are young, so talking about it when they are older does not seem intense or overwhelming.
As a parent, you can start by talking to them about their body parts, teaching the correct name for them instead of using slangs. You can also take advantage of their curiosity by answering in simple terms any questions they would have. At this stage, you can also teach them about body autonomy and consent. Yes, teach them about the good touches and bad touches; and how no one is supposed to touch their private parts except their parents or a doctor when ensuring they are safe.
Narrowing the scope: Talking to preteens
At the age of 8-10, children should begin to learn that their bodies and that of others will begin changing soon. You can start teaching them about puberty as it relates to them and the opposite sex, keeping it as simple as it can be. As they grow older towards the end of elementary or into middle school, you can begin to teach them about communication in relationships, love and affection. At this point, they may begin to have crushes. Let them know they can talk to you about it. They may not be dating at this stage, but these building blocks are important for when they become interested in romantic relationships later on.
Don’t beat around the bush: Talking to teens
This is usually the challenging part. If you have been laying the foundation, this stage is pretty easy, but if you have been waiting for them to get older, you are most certain to hear “I know already dad”, or “Ew, I don’t want to talk about this with your mom”. This is why it is important to begin early. However, no matter their protest, don’t be dissuaded, just ask them to hear you out; they will listen anyway.
Create opportunities to talk about sex, healthy relationships and intimacy. Teach them about abstinence, but also teach them about protection during sex. This does not mean you are condoning your child having sex. At this stage also, you want to avoid judgment, criticism and lectures. Become a listener; hear their views out. You will be amazed at how open they will become given such opportunity. You also at this stage, want to focus on the dos instead of the dont’s.
Most parents think that telling their teenage children what not to do, keeps them away. You should understand that they are in their rebellious stage, and will always want to try things out. Rather, emphasize what to do when it comes to sexuality and personal safety. Don’t forget to talk about masturbation too. As kids get older, sex is more on the brain, and masturbation can be discussed as a safer option for sex and knowing about one’s body. Put this concept into an easily digestible concept, to relieve your child of any shame they may be holding around it.
Use this opportunity to also talk to them about controversial issues like anal sex and homosexuality. Try to be as objective as possible while discussing these.
Realise that as a parent you have greater influence over your children. Use this influence to educate your children on sex, giving them a comprehensive view of the subject and ensuring their safety.