Please help me welcome back Beth Meleski with a great guest post today tackling an important subject: why you should talk about sex with your kids. I love her humor and straight shooting style, and I bet you will, too.
Recently, a friend was telling me about a conversation she had with another mother, the parent of girls entering their tween years. The mother said she hadn’t broken the seal on the sex talk and wondered at what age it was appropriate to do so.
My friend (in her head) and I (out loud) yelled, “Yesterday!” or, since time travel isn’t yet a thing, at least, “Now! Right now!” There are actually a lot of reasons to talk about sex with your kids.
First, I know there are a million reasons not to have the sex talk with our tweens. They include, but are not limited to:
- I am uncomfortable with the subject
- I am really uncomfortable with the subject
- I am extremely uncomfortable with the subject
There are just as many reasons why, regardless of what we say, how we really feel about sex, what we value and believe, how we actually define sex or who we have sex with, we need to overcome the discomfort, squeamishness, and any general ickyness we feel in order to make sure our kids are safe, respected and knowledgeable.
Here are my top nine:
1. You never know when your tween will stop listening to you.
In my own home, one day, my kid was hanging out in the kitchen laughing and talking while I made dinner. Overnight, his door was closed, he preferred solitude to our company and we never knew if, when the door opened, Surly Guy was going to make an (thusfar blissfully short) appearance.
The thing is, there was no warning, other than his age, to indicate when this was going to happen, so it was better for me to get my words in while I could.
2. You don’t know when your tween will need to use the information you share.
When was your first kiss? Mine was in 7th grade. And it was awesome. But I’ll bet if you asked my parents about my first kiss, they’d put it somewhere in my high school years.
Our tweens are leading a life that is taking them further away from us for longer periods of time. We won’t always be there to inform, analyze or counsel.
It is imperative that they know what we deem acceptable. It is also imperative that we discuss all the ways that an innocent kiss can turn into something they are less able to handle. We need to name those things and describe them and talk about what they should do if they are confronted with them. Which brings me to:
3. There’s a whole lot of information to cover.
I mean, first there’s the act itself. Then, there are the parts that are involved and their respective roles. Then there are all the acts that lead up to the act. And the acts that might not lead up to the act but might still feel pretty darned close to the act. Then there is abstinence or protection and the advocating of the one but the addressing of the other.
And there are the emotions they will feel and the dangers they might encounter and the family values and beliefs they should consider. And consequences. And responsibility. And finality and impulse control. And they’re tweens so we’re going to sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher so,
4. You’re going to have to repeat yourself.
There is no way all of this can be covered in one, two or even ten conversations.
In fact, I started talking to my five year old about sex a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a conversation that involved talking about the penis or the vagina or what went where, though. Rather, it was a conversation about respect, brought on by the scornful tone we overheard a little boy using with his mother while sitting poolside this summer. After they left, my daughter and I talked about the expectation we should all have of being treated in a respectful manner. The good news is,
5. The more you talk about the subject, the easier it will become.
For both of you. Believe me, this will not be easy for your kid either, even the ones who ask the questions and seem to want to know.
Even if you, like me, are a matter-of-fact, unabashed parent who prides herself on her honesty and happens to think that sex under the right circumstances is a good thing, you might be surprised to find yourself a little tongue-tied.
I realized that I was not sure I wanted to bring up the topic or “put ideas in their heads." What happened? I got pregnant. And my kids were old enough to require more of an explanation for how I “got the baby” than a benign stork.
Talking about sex is sort of like skiing. It’s easier for younger kids because they have no preconceived notions, hang-ups or fears.
I’m glad I started the conversation when I did because,
6. You have to leave time for questions.
Again, the more you talk about all the topics related to sex and love and relationships, the more comfortable your kids will feel.
I usually don’t get much more that a longing look over my shoulder toward the nearest exit whenever I start these conversations, but it’s funny how, a few days later, one or the other kid will find me so we can rehash the discussion. And you totally want to be the person to answer the questions because,
7. If you don’t, someone else will.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone else telling my kids about sex.
Because the sex I will tell them about involves love (or at least the perception of it) and respect. It takes into account timing and protection, both physical and mental. It addresses and validates their feelings, all of them, and the people they choose to love.
My discussion of this topic comes from the choices my husband and I have made about our family’s deeply seated values and beliefs.
No one, not a health care provider, not an educator, not a member of the clergy, not their favorite YouTuber, can share my perspective. And it’s one I want my kids to consider because,
8. This is one of the most important choices they will make in their lives.
It will not seem like it at the time, especially when they are teenagers and all they want is to be loved and accepted by the person they are with. They haven’t lived long to know what forever feels like.
I try and stuff my kids with information in the hopes that the more they know about my views and experiences and feelings, the more likely they will be to make the right decision at the right time, for the right reason.
9. You don’t want to regret that you didn’t.
See numbers 1 - 8 above.
I have very intentionally not made reference to the numerous excellent books and websites that are amazing resources for understanding age appropriate conversations, terminology and topics. Nor do I feel that I am qualified to give instruction regarding exactly what your conversations with your kids should include. That is for you to decide.
I am no expert. I’m just a mom who has found that transparency, knowledge-sharing and honesty, even when painful, have always been my best course of action.
Beth Meleski, mom, writer, minivan driver, blogs at My Bethisms. Follow her on Facebook at Beth Meleski, Writer or on Twitter @mybethisms. Or, you can follow her on her regular route in Northern New Jersey where she can be found driving carpools or going to the grocery store...again.
Thanks so much, Beth!
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Filed under: Parenting