We teach our children how to tie their shoelaces and to cross the street safely, how to do maths and how to be a good friend, yet we often falter when we have to mention the word ‘sex’.
We currently live in a sex-saturated society that screams its messages at developing teens, from billboards to computer screens. Yes, sexual messages and images have been around for decades but it is not the same as 20 years ago. The intensity and frequency of messages are far greater than they have ever been. Playboy style centerfolds of yesteryear are now just your everyday lingerie ads. Messages in sitcoms and soaps come across as:
Everybody’s doing it!
Just do whatever feels good for you.
There are no serious negative consequences.
Boys are sex machines and girls are always up for it.
We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and hope our children will just develop healthy attitudes and behaviors around sexuality via wind pollination. If everybody is talking to our children about sex, I believe that we should be the ones to talk to them first. It is what our children need from us.
Many parents are understandably anxious about this topic. My grandmother’s generation grew up thinking they were dying at the sight of their first period, while our generation was taught about sex in either an awkward stilted manner, by having a book hastily placed on our beds without comment or simply being told nothing at all. Some parents are afraid of giving too much information or basically just don’t know how to start. So we fail to build into a crucial area of our children’s lives.
As you begin to talk through these issues with your children, you not only equip them with the information they need to make wise choices, but your relationship with them deepens in the process. They learn that they can trust you in the most sensitive areas of life.
Make use of opportunities that present themselves, such as when an aunt or even a pet are having babies. Talk about how babies ‘get in there’. Children will happily babble on about making a baby in the same way they will chat about making a jigsaw puzzle, they don’t know any different.
Of course we have the technical side, but then there are the key emotional and mental qualities of sex, which we often leave out of discussions.
The role of sex within relationships, appropriate sexual behavior, how to treat a person of the opposite sex, respectfulness and unselfishness in sex – these need to be taught, modeled and debated at home. This is where mothers can discuss with their sons how they should treat women or fathers can teach daughters about how she should be treated by men (with respect, admiration for her abilities and talents etc.).