Say it loud, say it proud — Penis! Vagina! Masturbation! Piece of cake, right?
Now say that in front of your kid…
Believe it or not, talking about sex with our children is easy; at least when compared to talking to our children about healthy and safe relationships.
I recently attended an event hosted by YES ALL Daughters and the Norman PTA Council which was a discussion aimed at providing parents with tools to open a dialogue with their kids about sexual health and safe and healthy relationships.
My daughter’s only four, but I attended because I know that, sadly, she will only be a kid for a short time and I don’t know when she’ll start wondering and asking questions; I want to be ready.
Here are my Top 10 takeaways from the event, mixed with a bit of my own thoughts. (Of course, I’m not an expert; I’m just a parent trying to do the best I can for my kid.)
1. Brush up on the basics of both male and female anatomy; reproduction and other sexual health issues, including the most common sexually-transmitted infections/diseases; and birth control options, including abstinence and contraception. You can’t teach something you don’t know.
2. Practice saying the words that make you cringe. The topic itself makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I guarantee – waiting until you’re face-to-face with your teenager to utter the word clitoris out loud for the first time will not make it easier!
3. Be prepared to point your child to more resources. No matter how much you prepare, you’re not going to have all the answers. Make sure your child knows where to find more information, or better yet, do it together.
4. Know what your child’s school school is teaching them, so you’re familiar with your child’s foundation of knowledge. Armed with information, you can augment their education where you feel it’s necessary and you can provide a moral framework that supports your family’s beliefs. Demand that our schools teach an unbiased, fact-based curriculum.
5. Start young – younger than you think is necessary. In fact, talk to them before they even understand what you’re talking about. It can only be a good thing if the first time they hear about sex is from you. Wouldn’t it be nice to know they aren’t going to fall for some urban legend from their friends because they knew the truth before they had a chance to be duped?
6. Talk to both sons and daughters about ALL the stuff. Don’t assume they only need to know certain things because of their sex. Not only does this overlook any possible gender identity issues, it’s vital that our children understand that both people in a relationship are responsible for expecting and creating a healthy relationship.
7. Talk about consent beyond No Means No. Teach them – both sons and daughters – that YES! Means Yes. That means that silence is not consent. That means that a coerced or forced yes is not consent. It means only that an enthusiastic, affirmative YES! is consent, nothing less. Understand and communicate the situations when consent CANNOT be given: when someone is drunk, unconscious, or otherwise unable to make sound decisions; when someone is under 16; when one person is in a position of authority; etc.
8. Help them develop the self-confidence to go against the flow. From birth, empower them with control over their body. Don’t force them to hug and kiss family. Model good manners and instill kindness, but don’t lead your kids to believe that they need to “be nice” or do certain things to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
9. When you hear about a sexual assault, and we hear about them way too often, refrain from comments that may be interpreted as victim blaming. This includes wondering what someone was wearing, questioning why they went somewhere alone, noting that they were drinking, etc. In the tragic event your child is the victim of an assault, the last thing you want is for him or her to hesitate to come to you for fear you’ll think it was their fault.
10. Together with your child, formulate a plan of action in case he or she witnesses sexual violence. Learning bystander intervention techniques may give your child the confidence and tools to help change what many are calling our rape culture, or even stop an act of violence while it’s occurring.
Parents – there are a lot of good, hard-working people out there trying to help our kids. But all the good, hard-working people in our community can’t replace us. It can’t be said enough — talk to your child, know your child. Be an open and safe place for your child to turn in times of question or crisis. It’s never too early, or too late, to start trying to connect with the person who learns more from your influence, directly or indirectly, than from anyone else on this planet.
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post for Yes All Daughters or Norman PTA Council. I am simply sharing my experience because I thought it was beneficial for all parents.