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How do you teach your kids about real life sex?
I was recently horrified by an article I read about the new sexual norm for teenagers:
“That sending nude pictures via text or Facebook is the new flirting. That boys their age watch porn regularly, and demand from their girlfriends the sexual menu they see online – hairless, surgically-enhanced bodies, ‘girl-on-girl action’, and much, much more.” (Lost innocence: Why girls are having rough sex at 12)
Imagining my two daughters having to deal with the pressure of shaving all their pubic hair before it’s even fully grown in makes me feel nauseous, but avoiding the topic isn’t going to make it go away. The internet is this generation’s Sex Ed. Class and it is far more frank and detailed than any parent or teacher is going to be. The only way to prepare our kids for this new sexual climate is to give them honest information about sex and to start early.
- Teach your young child about his or her body. Many false notions about sex come from lack of knowledge about the human body. “When parents use incorrect names for sexual body parts, the message is that they are somehow different or that there is something wrong or unmentionable about them,” writes Advocates for Youth author Mary Gossart. My three-year old daughter knows that the pee comes out of the urethra, babies come out of the vagina and poop comes out of the bottom. As soon as she gets her pronunciation down for the letter ‘l,’ we will probably start talking about the clitoris.
- Talk to your kids honestly about sex. We know that most kids don’t wait for marriage to have sex, so teaching them that sex is only something Mommies and Daddies do is not the reality. It IS ok to teach your children about your own values on sex, but this needs to be done in the context of honestly answering questions regarding other people’s views. Dr. Charles Wibblesman, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Kaiser in San Francisco says, “Accept the adolescent’s questions as part of growing up, because that’s exactly what it is. But at the same time, let the adolescent know what your views and values are. Know the difference between facts and your opinion, and be clear about both.”
- Ask for help and use outside resources. Sex can be an uncomfortable topic for parents to address with their kids, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are many scientifically validated programs and guides you can refer to on how to best teach your kids. Furthermore, a sex talk can be better received from a trusted relative or family friend whom your teenager looks up to. This should not take the place of a parent sex-talk, but used in addition to. Give your teenager alone time with his or her doctor to be able to talk about topics that they may not want to talk about in front of you. Also, make sure you know what your child’s school is teaching, as not all Sex Ed is created equal. One of many good resources is published by Advocates for Youth and describes what a child should be learning at each age from 3 years to High School senior: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/589?task=view
- Stay up to date. It is too cliché for parents to just say, “in my day, that never happened…” and shake their heads at the audacity of today’s youth. Teenagers have always pushed the limits since time immemorial and will continue to do so. It is a parent’s responsibility to know what those limits are. Stay current with pop culture to get an idea of what your kids are being exposed to. Read the magazines and blogs your kids may read and watch TV and movies. In a nutshell, stay cool.
Below are some good articles and resources for parents