Even the most confident of parents often feel uncomfortable with the prospect of talking to their children about sex. Most understand that if we fail to talk about it, they will learn about it from media and peers, and that it is our responsibility to do so to ensure that they have accurate information.But still, it’s not an easy conversation to have! And even for those who are brave enough to do so, how can we best help our kids not only know the facts, but also have a healthy attitude toward their bodies and understand sex in a way that will benefit them? Here are 5 ways to be a sex-positive parent:
1) Realize It Begins At Birth
Many parents wonder what is the appropriate age to begin talking about sex. But the truth is that positive attitudes about bodies and sexuality begin from the very beginning. When children are young, don’t be afraid to verbally celebrate and affirm the importance of their bodies. Even during toilet training, take the opportunity to help them notice how wonderful and useful their bodies can be. Kids absorb the messages you send in your tone of your voice and by how you respond to their actions.
2. It is normal for pre-school aged children to become interested and fascinated with private parts (theirs and others). Use correct medical language, not nicknames, when discussing private parts. Answer questions on a level consistent with their developmental age. (i.e. they don’t need to have anatomy lessons to understand where babies come from, that comes later). Talk to them about your personal and family values. If your child exhibits sexual behavior, it’s important to deal with it without making them feel shame or embarrassment. Here’s a resource with more detailed information and explains the difference between normal and concerning behavior.
3. With school age children, parents need to be more direct regarding sexual abuse and sex education. Some of these resources are may be too direct or differ with your values so it’s important to read before sharing them with your child. The books do not need to be read in entirety you can pick and choose depending on your child’s questions or level of understanding.
Most public schools present information about maturation in fifth grade. Children are often easily embarrassed at this age, especially boys. Some of them may find it more helpful to be given a book or pamphlets to read. However, if you choose this method make sure you have a follow-up discussion with them and are available for questions. If you are open, non-judgemental and informative it will increase the chances of them coming to you with questions instead of going to their friends. Or maybe I should say coming to you after they have heard incorrect information from their friends.
Puberty for boys: The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need To Know for Group Up You (Boys World Books)
5. Don’t worry about giving your teen too much information about sex education. Most parents error on not providing enough information because they don’t want to “expose” them. Unfortunately in my practice I see that tweens/teens have already been exposed to it. Parents need to continue to teach their values in a non-judgemental way, focusing on the benefits of living those values. Have frank discussions with them about choices and consequences. Relate it to what their peers are doing, good and bad. I cannot stress the importance of having a strong/bonded relationship prior to having these discussions.
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