Collectively, we do not want to talk about sex with our kids, and they don’t want to talk to us. But, here’s the deal: they’re already talking about it. My daughter is ten. Her classmate is offering “health class” on the playground at recess. While searching “how to draw anime girl” on the internet, she found a picture of anime characters having sex. Her friend’s older sister showed her how to perform oral sex on a piece of string cheese. For the love of all that is good . . . Gah!!! We need to have the sex talk with our kids before they have it with someone else.
It’s happening, fellow mamas. Sooner than we’re ready for. Our sweet little babies are talking about sex. I know you don’t believe it, but I speak the truth. If we want our voices to be part of their understanding, we need to contribute. They will not soak it up magically.
It used to make my stomach get all squirmy, and my face turn so red it was itchy. But no more! I am facing this sex talk head on and I’m talking about it. Let’s do it. It might even make our own sex lives better. I hear open and honest communication is the key. Squirm squirm.
It’s tricky stuff. It’s embarrassing, it’s awkward, and our kids don’t want to talk about it. But here’s the thing. It’s only awkward if we’re awkward. If we force our voices to stay at their normal pitch, face it without being weird, just like we’re having a normal conversation, having the sex talk with your kids can be a normal conversation.
Here are FIVE ways to make “the sex talk” tolerable (and maybe even great!)
Talk about it with your partner or you fellow mamas. I don’t mean make a script and run through it with your friends, I just mean talk about it. Talking about it normalizes it. Not that I’m suggesting normalizing kids having sex, just normalizing sex. Because, it is normal. It’s human. And our kids will probably do it! Eeeeeeek!!!!
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank focused on sexual and reproductive health, 7 in 10 Americans have had sex by their 19th birthday. And that doesn’t mean wait until they’re 18 to talk about it!
Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein is an enlightening read. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robbie H. Harris is a wonderful resource for kids ten and up. Also, read what your kids are reading! As they get older the concepts in their books get more mature and offer excellent opportunities for talking about sex and intimacy in a way that is not squirmy; you’re just talking about book characters, after all.
3. Make Time
Allow some time during the week that is just you and your kiddo. My daughter has started coming into the kitchen while I make dinner, and we chat. It started organically. One evening I called her in to talk about something that had happened with one of her friends, and the conversation blossomed. She now comes in on her own to talk about the tricky stuff. We have thirty minutes that is just us. It’s lovely. And because I’m cooking there is not a lot of eye contact, which makes things less intense. I’ve heard friends say that instead of sending their middle schooler on the bus, they trap them in the car for the twenty minute drive so that they have time alone to talk. Brilliant!
Without judgement. Let them talk and you listen. Be ok with long pauses and moments of silence. Your child just may fill them up with interesting snippets of life.
5. Make it an Ongoing Convo
Understand that this is not a one and done. These conversations will continue, they will grow on each other, you’ll revisit the same topics again and again. What they are ready to hear right now will be different than what they are ready to hear in six months. Laying a foundation now for open, honest, judgement-free conversation sets us up to be a person that our babies can come to when things get really confusing and difficult.
If we prove that we can answer those hard questions without being weird, that we are in fact a wealth of useful information, they will be more apt to come to us instead of their ill-informed peers (kids who teach “health class” or provide string cheese demos).