Talking about Sex with Your Kids

Quick quiz: You are in the car driving somewhere and out of the blue your teen asks you what you think about masturbation. You:
A) Pretend not to hear and fiddle with the NPR reception
B) Drive off the road into a ditch rather than respond
C) Remember that you were taught that it could cause blindness and wonder about passing on that advice at this moment
D) Respond, "cool topic, why do you ask?"

Hint - the right answer is "D" but I think quite a few parents opt for "A" and in extreme cases "B" due to major discomfort with the subject of sex. But take heart.. if your child had the guts to ask you, you must have built at least a tiny bridge of trust with your child and now is your time to make it even stronger by answering their questions in the most accurate and positive way possible.

Be ready beforehand for these intense questions by having resources available and getting your personal head on straight about how you feel about sex and what personal baggage you might be bringing to the conversation. Since let's face it, if you were raised in a home that thought of sex as some deep dark sin and you have not gotten your head clear of that jibberish how well are you going to be able to talk to your children in a positive way?

Kids have lots of questions, some garden variety and some more intense than you ever dreamed. Being ready for these questions will make your conversations easier and your relationship with your child better.
When it comes to websites, Scarleteen, sex education for the real world is the hands down best resource on the net. They are one of the best places for the nervous parent or the questioning teen to find answers. Scarleteen is always there with frank, body positive information from everything from masturbation to sexually transmitted diseases. No sugar coating or flowery language waxing poetic about being a virgin flower, no sirree.. this is accurate information straight up and medically sound. The site is equally geared to boys as well as girls, gay, straight or bi. There is support here for every teen under the sun.

The site is pro-sex in that they come from the point that sex is a given in each of our lives but there are times and reasons not to have it too. From their web " We provide sex and sexuality education, information and advice for millions of young adults, parents and allies each year! We're read by 20,000 - 30,000 users daily, and are often the most highly ranked teen sex education website online despite never having any public funding or doing any advertising. Find out about our commitment to inclusive, healthy and sex-positive sex ed for teens"

I can't begin to say how much I like and respect this website, enough so that I became a donor to support their continued success for millions more inquiring teens to come! Spend some time reading on the site, I am sure you will be shocked if not a bit uncomfortable at times. But remember these are real questions from real kids so there is a good chance that your pre teen or teen is wondering some of the same things and deserves unbiased factual answers to their questions.

Quality resources can be hard to come by but I have listed two of my favorites. I am not talking about books that are just " how a baby is made books" and quite frankly if your child is past 10 I think you should skip them too unless you have not even given them this information yet ( and if not, get on the stick about it!). "Making a baby" is just the very smallest part of learning about sex and sexuality and yet most parents think they have done their duty by unleashing the sperm meets egg story on their children and calling it "good". But honestly unless that story also includes, kissing, dry humping, oral sex, masturbation, abstaining, safer sex, menstruation, rape avoidance and many other topics that kids ask about every day then as a parent you are not telling your child the whole truth before they need it.. since after they need it.. well it's just too late.

For the 13 and up set I really like S.E.X The in-depth and inclusive sexuality guide by Heather Corinna (Marlowe & Company/DaCapo, 2007)! Covering everything from STIs to sexual orientation, body image to birth control, masturbation to misogyny, the anatomy of the clitoris to considering cohabitation, and written for you whether you're male, female or genderqueer; straight, gay or somewhere in between, this is THE everything-you-need, comprehensive, progressive sexuality handbook to get you through high school, college and the rest of your life.

For the 5 and up set I really like It's Perfectly Normal This frank but gentle book covers all the topics kids will need and wonder about in the early years. While the whole book might not be right for a 5 year old it's all topical to growing up and the questions your children have in their heads even if they are not talking to you about them. The book is in water color pencil with cartoonish frank drawings of people with varied body types. The book cover basic biology, sexuality, birth, homosexuality, STD's, birth control and much more. We have had a copy of this book in our house for years and I plan on copies for my grandchildren one day!

Talking about sex with children can be uncomfortable unless it's a dialog that begins early in life. So if you are jumping into the deep end of the sex pool when your child is 13 cut yourself some slack since it's going to be a bit painful for both of you. Educate yourself so you can then be the one to help educated them. At the very least fill their lives with quality books and websites like that above so maybe even if you are unable they will learn enough so that someday they will have a better shot at being comfortable and sex-positive with their own children.


Anonymous said...

Hi Maddie!

This is Sara (Grant's GF incase you didn't guess it!). I just wanted to thank you for putting such informative articles out there. I think if more parents knew better ways to approach their kids about sex the world would be a better (and far less confused!) place.

Thank you so much, and keep up the great work!!

Barbara said...

Great post, Maddie. I think you're bold to take this on, and I really appreciate the links. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the links Maddie. after watching Oprah this week - I think my kids need more info.