We know you dread, the “talk.” Parents, moms, dads — we want to know how you told (or plan to tell) your kids about well…the birds and the bees.
“Birds do it,
Bees do it,
Even educated fleas do it.
Let’s do it,
Let’s fall in love.”
So…… How did you learn about sex? When baby boomer girls were 12 we learned about menstruation and the mechanics of making and having babies from a movie shown after school “for girls only.” Little was said at my house beyond some hemming and hawing about whether I should go to the film.
The Movie was shown in the fifth grade and the boys were very curious as to what was going on. I remember coming home and wanting to talk about it by my mother took my book and that was the end of that. Bless her little naive heart, she has always been the type of person that, if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t happen. Or so she’d like to think. So it’s not surprising that she took this route. Was it the best? Probably not. It made it more taboo (and let’s face it, that adds fuel to the fire for a teenager).
There was a boys’ version, too: A father-to-son talk along the lines of, “Don’t get any girl pregnant before you can support a wife and family.” And there were the horror stories, including a 13-year-old girl whose mom waited too long to have “The Talk,” and poor Sandy started her period without knowing what it was. After three days of bleeding — and thinking she was dying — she finally went to her mother.
Friends of mine learned what little they knew from friends, some of whom had more enlightened parents, but most of whom had equally ignorant friends. Is it any wonder that most of us were more than a little confused?
“What kids don’t get in school is the stuff about the relationship, stuff about the feelings part of it,” “Teachers are most comfortable doing the factual physiology and anatomy of things. It’s really hard for teachers to talk about relationships, emotions and values. … The best place to teach that is at home.”
As uncomfortable as talking about it may be, to duck out of the talk about “the birds and the bees” is just plain irresponsible.
Parents often ask, “How old should a child be before we start talking about sex?” My answer always is: “Younger than you think.” Here’s why. If you talk about sexual matters from the beginning of a child’s use of language, there never needs to be the big “birds and bees talk.” It’s just a series of small conversations spread out over many years. You, as the parent, become the obvious go-to person whenever there’s a question.
If you become an “askable” parent, you will have offered your child an incredibly valuable gift.
Whatever your personal values about sex may be — from sex as recreation to sex as sacred — it is simply true that sex too early and without adequate information can be emotionally damaging and physically dangerous. Young psyches can’t handle the emotional stimulation of sex. Young girls’ bodies are not meant to be pregnant. Young boys and girls are not ready to be fathers and mothers. And, sadly, young peoples’ impulsivity and ignorance often mean that they do not adequately protect themselves from disease, pregnancy, and exploitive sex.
It’s difficult to know when to start, how much detail to give, and where values fit into the picture. Don’t worry: if you’re too uncomfortable talking to your kids about sex, the media and their friends will be happy to fill the void. Not so reassured?
Talk! Talk! Talk, never stop talking to your kids about abstinence talk without sending mixed messages, because mixed messages don’t work, teach abstinence to your children and also have the courage to stand up for what is right, you can be abstinent in a relationship, but it only works when both people agree to it.
- Talk early. Don’t wait until high school. You should actually start in preschool, by teaching children the actual names of their body parts and talking about feelings. When they are 10-12 you should start talking about sex; if you’ve laid the groundwork, it won’t feel weird.
- Talk about feelings, too. Teens need to know that sexual urges are normal, and that sex can make you feel very good or very bad, depending on the context. They need to know about the role peer pressure plays, too.
- Talk often. One time won’t do it. Kids have limited attention spans, and both kids and parents have limited comfort zones — but any parent of a teen will agree that repeated sit-downs to talk about sex aren’t happening. So steal opportunities. I’ve been using time in the car: they are captive audiences, we don’t have to actually look at each other, and it’s easy to change the subject if somebody gets uncomfortable.
- Impart your beliefs — but don’t preach. There’s nothing that shuts down conversation like preaching. As for me personally, I believe that my children should abstain from sex until they are married.
It is funny how sex can be portrayed as such a taboo because we avoid the topic with our kids……
A good sex education book can help you cover all the topics — and it offers a place to point your child when you run out of words or feel your cheeks reddening. I recommend these first two for kids and the last one for parents:
The Birds and the Bees
somehow, so it’d be best if it were from me.
That’s what they say, anyway, and I suspect
they’re right — although I often wonder
whether I’m qualified to impart to her
those rather unexpected facts of life. I want to first consider: which words
would I use to dig down into the earth
to uncover the enigma of a bulb —
thick with layers, smeared with mud —
and how would I dissect its secret core
in a lesson for a lily on the stem?Speaking in metaphor
is decidedly more comfortable
than explaining the mechanics of sex
in blunt detail; there’s nothing absurd
about a robin laying eggs in her nest
or a bee pollinating a garden flower.But two grown-ups shedding their clothes
to expose hidden parts of the body
heretofore associated with the potty,
agreeing to insert an appendage of one
into an orifice belonging to the other,
with the possible result of a baby?It’s no wonder we fall back on
analogies from the animal kingdom.
Nature, of course, has its own complications:
Why must the father robin decamp after a season?
Or the queen bee leave a trail of drone suicides
wherever she flies?No, I know I need to spell out the origin of babies,
beyond sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
But how and when do I begin to address the fact
that the bodily act of sex delves to the level of soul?
And that therein lies its power — which can be
twisted into the worst of all weapons,or cultivated into food that nurtures a lasting bond?
How do I point out that power, without joining
the loud and insidious voices declaring that her body
and her lifetime of sexual choices
determine her total worth as a woman?
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself —right now, my goal is more basic:
that she could ask any question without distress,
and that I could respond with honesty and ease.
So how can I maintain an open conversation,
being mindful to not impart shame or fear,
if I’m embarrassed and afraid to even start?
© Sarah Dunning Park, 2013.
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