The Sex Talk: The Conversation We Are Afraid to Have
Contributing Writer: Beth Saavedra
Do you remember how you first learned about sex? Where did you get your ideas? Were they correct? Do you have positive recollections of learning to connect your sexuality with concrete ideas about how to live it out in a healthy way? Or are your first memories of learning about your body confused by secrecy and shame from gleaning forbidden information from peers?
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As parents, we have a golden opportunity to shape the way our children understand their sexuality and to guide them in how to be healthy sexual beings in the world. Maybe our own parents never spoke with us in an open manner about these issues, but the stakes are so much higher these days in our fast-paced, media-saturated world.
If we don’t speak up with our children, there are plenty of other voices waiting to fill in the blanks, whether from billboards, television shows, newscasts, magazines or the older boy or girl down the block.
Do we want to leave it to them to define sexuality to our children? Do we trust these other voices to instruct our kids without misconceptions?
What is the first step in helping our kids to understand and manage their sexuality well? Before we speak, we need to reflect on our own experiences to consider what values we want to pass on to our kids. Do we even understand normal sexual development well enough to teach it to our kids? If not, there are resources (free ones, too!) we can tap into, like this great podcast series from scholar and sexuality educator Tina Schermer Sellers.
But let’s not drag our feet in getting ready to dialogue with our kids.
The time to guide and educate them is now!
Lest we freak out about sitting our little darling down to have “the talk” may I suggest a different approach? Instead of having just one 100-minute conversation with our child (which could be torture for both us and them), why not aim to have 100 one-minute long conversations? With the frequent and short conversation approach, we lay the foundation for open dialogue with our kids throughout the years.
What would one-minute conversations about sexuality look like? Picture this: your child is fresh out of the tub and ready for pajamas, but starts making innocent comments about their own anatomy. It’s a perfect moment to teach proper terms for the body.
“Yes, sweetheart, that’s your ____. Isn’t it great that God gave all (boys/girls) a ____?” Or imagine you’re walking down the street and your kiddo sees a billboard and states, “That lady isn’t wearing much clothing.” Rather than shuffle your child off in another direction as quickly as possible, try this script, “You’re right. She doesn’t look very comfortable, does she? You know, your body is just for you. In our family, we keep our private parts covered because they are so special that they are just for your own eyes to see.”
And then we carry on with life and our other conversations in matter of fact ways, so that our children learn that talking about sexuality and their bodies is a normal part of family life. These quick conversations don’t even have to be a dialogue; sometimes they are just an informational sentence we throw out there. Or, from time to time, they could turn into long heart-to-heart chats. The important take-away is to talk with our children early and often. We should be their most trusted resource. Let’s start the dialogue today.
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Beth Saavedra is an avid fan of her husband, the band U2, chocolate and the Bible. She loves her four kiddos more than life itself. Beth makes her messy, friend-filled home in Ecuador. You can read her missionary newsletters at http://saavedrastories.blogspot.com.