Let’s talk about sex, parents
Upon marking exam papers the other day, an educator read a grade 8 child’s answer to a question about why kids don’t feel free to talk to their parents about sex. The student gave 3 points that all came down to the parents who do not allow it and they accuse kids of being promiscuous (to Afrikaans readers, “ougat” is the word to be exact) This is not some fanciful story I’m telling you. This is as real as it gets. Seen with my own eyes. Right here in Cape Town.
It’s not only that grade 8 student who believes this. There are plenty of them and other kids older and younger that believe sex to be a dirty word. A taboo topic surrounded by silence and secrecy. Why? Parents make them believe it.
Far too many times I speak with parents who believe their kids are too young to digest information about sex. Many of these parents are open minded individuals who will talk about just anything with you. Given the opportunity they’ll have those same conversations with people younger than them or even give advice to someone else’s kids. Talk about hypocrites.
Kids are more clever and understand much more than we give them credit for.
Part of me cannot believe that at this day and age parents still find it difficult to talk about sex. The other part of me understands perfectly. My husband gets pretty uncomfortable when we start with ‘those’ kind of chats.
These days kids learn about sex and diseases etc in Life Orientation at school, but why should it be confined to school and exams? Raising your kids is not an institutions responsibility. Neither is teaching them manners. Besides, educators can only answer so many questions. The rest is up to you as parents. Would you want an educator or possibly a friend fill in the blanks and lead your kid astray?
I learnt about losing your virginity at school, in grade 4 from one of my classmates. I thought that it was as bad as having your limbs amputated. How the hell would my vagina ever be able to normal things like taking a tinkle? This scared the bejesus out of me. Nope! Sex definitely was not for me. I definitely couldn’t voice my fears to my parents because their generation considered it a taboo topic. I had so many questions but no one to answer it at the time. Most of the sex education I got from then on were from friends who heard from other friends or older brothers or sisters. Then some of it was learnt from boys disgustingly recounting what they saw on X-rated videos. At least the vaginal amputation fear was settled some years later. I could have sex and take a tinkle too!
In grade 8, long before LO was deemed important enough to be a compulsory subject we got a Guidance class at school. Complete waste of time yet such a great “free period” between other learning subjects. I’ll never forget my guidance sir. Not because he made a good impression. Or because he was a peculiar looking man. I’ll never forget him because he once asked a group of us girls how it feels when we bath. If the water felt better inside or outside our vaginas. It was embarassing and disgusting. But hey, sex and all things sex related were a taboo topic to the parentals so we wouldn’t dare tell our parents. Somehow I think that that sir asked that question one too many times and some kid with open minded parents got him fired. I never heard of that sir again.
My kids sex education is no one else’s business. It’s mine and my husband’s. So is your kids sex education. It really doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you find it, just get over yourselves and do it. I assure you that while my husband won’t open up the topic, he willingly participates in the discussions. After you break the ice it gets easier.
While you may not have given it a second thought before, there are benefits to talking to your kids about sex.
1) They get all the ‘right’ answers from you and myths get busted from the word go. Talking of word, be sure to use the correct terms for body parts and functions.
2) You can teach them that sex should not be used as a tool to get what you want. It’s not going to land you a man or woman neither will it land you a job.
3) You can give them healthy insights about it and not just focus on the health aspects even though those are of extreme importance. By healthy, I mean masturbation and how that exercise is normal and they won’t be considered freaks (as kids would say).
4) Kids value honesty. Your kids will feel comfortable coming to you with other topics. Don’t underestimate this talk.
5) You have the power to instill good values in your kids about their own sexuality and that of the opposite sex.
6) By teaching them about their bodies and sex you also get the chance to advise them of the importance of knowing that their body belongs to them and no one has any right to violate them.
7) A simple sex talk can mean that boys learn to respect girls and women and vice versa. Neither sex (male/female) should exploit the other.
8) While you can’t guarantee that your kids will abstain, it may make them think twice about doing it for all the wrong reasons.
9) Unwanted pregnancies may just be avoided. So too can STD’s, HPV, HIV & AIDS. Talk to them about seeking medical attention.
10) Kids often make silly choices which can be avoided. Sex being one of them. Even adults misconstrue sex with love. Why can’t you be the person to tell your kids that sex does not equate to love?
No one can tell you exactly how to broach the subject with your kids, but there are some guidelines.
1) The most important part of the talks is to not talk. Listen and encourage your kids to ask questions. Their questions may be very simple so instead of bombarding them with information, allow them to set the pace. You may find that the information you have ready may not be required as yet. They will come back for more.
2) If your child is in school, have a look at their LO books and take your cue from there. Ask them about the lesson and what the teacher said.
3) It’s called sex! Sex. Sex. Sex. Don’t. I repeat. Do. Not. Think about talking about the birds and the bees. It sounds cute but NO. Tell it like it is. Babies do not come from the mountains and mommies didn’t eat a baby that settled in her belly.
4) Be subtle. You can’t expect to drop a bomb at the dinner table and say “Hey kids, let’s talk about sex” if it’s your first talk. Actually you can, but this is the kind of topic you want to ease into. Remember the first point.
5) Start early. Young kids don’t want to know about the actual act. They are more interested in babies thus you can start them with bite size chunks.
6) Another important guideline and not to be discounted because the fact that it’s listed no. 6, is your own sex life. Getting comfortable about talking about it with your spouse/partner. How open are you with expressing your feelings about it with them? Also, it’s a brilliant idea to discuss your talks with each other to make sure you’re on the same page before you sit with your kids.
7) When you provide your kids with information be sure to give them moral guidelines too. (Refer to the previous list)
8) Have age appropriate talks with your kids. Adolescents will need more than just the subtle talks you would have with your 8 year old. Contraception and diseases should be more in depth.
9) You’re not supposed to know everything. Be sure to seek advice and talk to other like minded parents who have had these discussions with their kids and if the information is relevant use it. You may have to tweak it here and there to suit your family.
10) Be prepared for anything. Make notes. Breathe. Stay calm. Fake confidence the first time. It’s a big step for you. Your babies will not be babies for long.
A point I excluded from the guidelines is liquid courage. You definitely don’t want to be that mom or dad who is known for drunken slurs of wisdom. Never a good idea. You may save that glass of wine for afterwards. Call it a congratulatory drink if you will.
DISCLAIMER: The points noted in this post are my personal opinions and parenting methods practised on my own kids. I am not a formal educator nor do I have a psychology degree. What I do have are insights on far too many parents and children still shying away from certain topics.
Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet and how have you handled it?