This was the post I wrote that was featured on KludgyMom last week.
Talking to your teens about sex starts way before the teen years. I never had a conversation about sex growing up. I don’t even think we talked about periods, pregnancy, or boys, for that matter, so everything felt like a mystery to me. And a dirty one at that, but I was curious and had these feelings I didn’t know what to do about. So, I experimented and got into situations I didn’t want to be in and found myself with a pile of regret in my teen years.
And you can bet that these experiences shaped my stance as a parent when it comes to talking to my own kids about sex and body image and feelings. I made a vow that I would discuss it all, without shock or horror or disgust. What I never anticipated though, was the depth to which our conversations would go during these teen years.
It’s safe to say that in our current world, kids are introduced to sex, in some version, much earlier than we want them to be. As a parent, you must be willing to engage in the sex topic at every level and every age, no matter the circumstances surrounding it. As a mom of 15 year old boy/girl twins I started having body and sex discussions when they were in 2nd grade! Not by choice, but by circumstance, so here are my must-do’s when it comes to kids, especially teens, and sex and making it a normal topic of discussion.
1. Teach your kids about their bodies-
Having been a Registered Nurse, it’s easy for me to discuss things about the body from a clinical perspective, but get an anatomy book if you have to so you know how to answer questions. Show your daughter in elementary school that she has 3 holes; one to pee, one to poop, and one where a baby can come out. Teach your son about his penis, testicles and the function of them.
As they get older, these body parts aren’t some secret part of their bodies that you haven’t ever talked about. It becomes OK to have frank discussions about how they’re changing and trust me, the whole menstrual cycle talk won’t be scary for them. Even for the boys.
2. Use real body part terms-
I beg you not to make up kitschy terms like wee-wee, wee-nus, feef, choochie, or bum. Use the words vagina, breasts, penis, & testicles. I know how uncomfortable it feels to read it, let alone say it, but we call other things by their real names like, eyes, hands, nose, and toes. Calling our sexual organs by their real names removes the taboo around them and veil of secrecy about being sexual beings.
By the time your kids are teens, you (and them) can have rational, normal talks about their body parts in the same relaxed manner that you chat about a turkey sandwich!
3. Don’t have “The Talk”-
Stay with me here. The idea of having a one-time discussion about everything sexual around the middle school years is, as my teens would say, so last year! Instead, start the dialogue of sex as you see things come up. When my daughter was 9 she was reading a book written for 9-12 year olds, but the author chose to create a rape scenario. Yes, I was very surprised by this, but I addressed it from first a clinical standpoint and then a talked about why boys and men do this to girls. It was a hard discussion and I didn’t want to do it, but it came up, so we had to.
During middle school my son pronounced that he was “going through puberty”! When I asked him how he knew that, he quickly clammed up, so I asked some point blank questions and then discussed what he had learned in school. Again, hard and uncomfortable, but necessary. My friend Debi suggests that you answer the questions they ask and only offer more if they ask more. Keep having an on-going dialogue and as they grow, their questions will grow.
4. Help your teens pre-decide what they stand for-
Now, I approach this from our faith base, but no matter what you believe, the time for your teen to decide what he or she will do in a situation is NOT while they are in the situation. We have had numerous discussions about what our family believes is the right thing when it comes to sex, but we also know that our teens will ultimately have to decide for themselves. Still, start talking about kissing, touching, and sex itself to help them navigate and form their own boundaries and beliefs BEFORE they are ever in these situations.
5. Teach them about respect-
I know every parent that cares tries to instill this virtue from the time kids can toddle around, but again this isn’t a one time thing. Often, virtues get forgotten during the teen years as they struggle to find their identity, fit in, and be accepted.
When my son started texting a girl this year saying she was “hot”, it opened up a discussion about how we respect others, view their sexuality, and either add or take away from their reputation. We want him to know that girls are not objects to be called “hot” and that she is someone’s daughter, and he has the responsibility to respect her as a such.
But respect isn’t just about others. It’s about respecting yourself and deciding what you will and won’t take part in, what you will and won’t say, and what you will and won’t allow others to do to you.
In a nutshell, talking to your teens about sex starts early, never ends, and always involves lots of surprises! Don’t shy away when it gets uncomfortable because some of the best teaching moments happen when you least expect them!