I think there is one thing that universally makes all parents nervous as their kids get older- it’s the infamous “talk”- the birds and the bees, all about sex. It’s a hard subject to approach, and it can be extremely difficult to know just how much information to give your kids when you have it. Long before our kids were ‘of age’ for ‘the talk’- my husband and I decided that we just wouldn’t do it.
Before you get worried, allow me to explain a little further… we decided that it’s not a good idea to wrap up all the things they would need to know about this topic into one talk, rather, we wanted to keep open communication going on it all through their lives. There are things that kids should know in each stage of their lives, and throwing all that information at them at once can spell disaster. While having one talk is better than no talk- we really felt that it had to be more then that.
Another thing we realized as our kids got older, is how young they are exposed to information about sex, from outside influences. My son was only nine years old when another boy on the school bus attempted to show him pornography. The average age that a child will stumble onto pornography is about eleven years old, and with the Internet in the pockets of kids everywhere, it happens a lot more than parents care to admit. So how do you protect them from this and get them the information they need before it’s “too late”?
First, I think it’s important to have age appropriate talks, no matter what your child’s age. Teaching your children about their bodies is extremely important in the prevention of sexual assault. For young children, make sure that when you talk about their body parts, you use proper names- don’t use nick names like “privates”- just state the name. This helps them to be very clear when it comes to understanding their bodies and will go a long way in making sure there is no misunderstanding, if they do have to tell you about something inappropriate that occurred. If you are not embarrassed to talk about it- they won’t be either, so keep the conversations going. Talk about good touch and let them know it’s ok if touch makes them feel uncomfortable, they have permission to say stop or no and it must be respected. They don’t have to give their Uncle a hug, if it makes them feel uncomfortable and they are empowered to say no.
After your kids are a little older, you can give them a little more information. It can be hard to know where to start, so I believe the best way to start is to let them lead- they will have questions which will come up when a new baby cousin is on the way, or a kid at school makes a statement they don’t understand- use these situations as opportunities for them to ask you questions. You usually only want to answer what they are asking with just the information they ask about- don’t go over board and give them every little piece of information, it will be over whelming and they might not be ready for it. Always follow up and let them know you are open to more conversations if needed. Remember, you don’t need to be an expert! Just allow them to ask questions, and if you don’t know the answer- work to find out the answer and get back to them. You can also get books from your local library or book store and gather some books that will help get you started. Don’t just hand your child the books- but read them together (and don’t forget to preview them too).
At around the age of 10 or 11, we always take the kids on a little trip to talk about the years ahead- we talk about puberty and what types of changes are ahead, we discuss peer pressure, and take the opportunity to go into a little more detail on sex and dating. This may seem a little on the young side, but I haven’t regretted giving my kids the information before someone in the locker room did. They will gather information on this topic somewhere- so they can either get it form you, the locker room, the school bus, or from videos they stumble upon- I’d really rather it come from me first. We use a resource called “Passport to Purity” for this little trip- but there are many other options out there for you to pull information from if that resource doesn’t fit your needs.
After the big ‘trip’- we follow up by reading books together, at least one a year, on this topic and other “fun" books as well- just so we aren’t beating them over the heads with information on this topic. We keep conversations going and have little follow up trips each year to touch base with any new questions or circumstances that have come up. We also make sure that all devices with Internet are filtered- so it limits the accidental search result that may come up that are not appropriate for children to see. If something gets flagged on the Internet filter- we don’t look at it as a terrible thing, but rather an opportunity to have a conversation about how to avoid sites they don’t need to be on next time and discuss how they handle it.
One thing that is important to remember is that we can’t protect our kids from everything- they will make choices we don’t agree with, filters will fail or can be worked around, and friends can expose our kids to things that we don’t want them to see- but we can do our best as parents to have open, honest communication- giving them the information they need to make good choices, and letting them know that if they make an error in judgement- we are there to listen and make a game plan to make a better choice in the future. Don’t let the sex talk intimidate you or make it a one time event- keep the communication going with your kids, I can promise, you wont’ regret it!