Let’s face it, when we were growing up, most of us had to answer our sexual questions by searching the internet or relying on the sometimes questionable expertise of older siblings and peers. If you have been fortunate to have parents who gave you the “sex talk,” it was likely associated with awkwardness and the need to figure out what information you were given.
Not only that, but the notion that having a “sex conversation” at the height of puberty must be such a significant event underscores the already taboo nature of one of the most common aspects of being human.
We are here to offer an alternative to this outdated practice. So feel free to comb through these ideas, pick up the resonance with you, and redesign the approach to sex education with younger generations. Whether you use this as a healing practice for your young self, as practical information for your current or future children or to share with family and friends who have children of their own – there is something for everyone.
Start Em ‘Young
Moving away from this idea of having a sex talk about growing up is learning how to incorporate sex education into everyday conversations. Instead of shying away from them or using euphemisms, you should be developmentally appropriate and still open about this completely normal part of being human.
One way to do this is to speak openly about reproductive organs when talking about anatomy. This can be done with babies and young children. Imagine singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and adding a penis or vagina to the song. It’s that simple. There you normalize the sexual education!
Not just the birds and the bees
Sex education is not just about learning the pros and cons of sex. Couldn’t resist this papa joke.
Another important topic that you can incorporate into your children’s learning experience is understanding approval – Teach young children to ask for permission before touching people’s bodies and to say no to other people they touch. Try to normalize ideas about reproductive health, including vaginal care and imbalances, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy and its many consequences.
Approaching sex education through a holistic lens will allow your kids to see it integrate into every part of being human, which will help normalize sex even further.
Check your prejudices
This is so difficult because, for the most part, we don’t know where our blind spots are until we know. You can start breaking these down by asking yourself a few questions.
- What misunderstandings did I have about sex with myself as a child / teenager / young adult?
- What do I wish I had been taught about sex from a young age?
- What could my parents have done differently to support my sex education journey?
If you do the work of checking your own prejudices and blocks, you can break the cycle by passing them on to your children.
You won’t have all the answers
The knowledge that you need to share with your children is limited by your experience. While this can be a difficult pill to swallow, admitting this to both your child and yourself can be a humbling experience.
When it comes to reproductive health, the world of gender and sexual expression is endless, and the odds are – you haven’t seen it all. Your child doesn’t expect you to understand the many nuances of being a sexually active person, but they want you to listen to them and be open to their experiences and questions.
By acknowledging that you do not have all the answers, you can reach out to community members who may be able to relate to your child in certain ways and help them find resources to relate to.
This is especially important for children with LGBTQ +, where parenting support can make a world of difference in helping those children thrive, not just survive.
Let go of the judgments
After realizing that you don’t have all the answers, but are more than willing to help your child find resources, it is time to examine where you are making judgments against questions they are asking or how they are identified.
The way these judgments are made can be so subtle, but for a young teen learning to express themselves sexually, your response to their questions can stay with them for a lifetime. Judgment responses can include rolling eyes, giggling, or downright condescending remarks.
Even if it was not intended, your children may sense the slightest malice and this can prevent them from asking questions in the future.
Try to answer these conversations and questions with an open heart and open mind. You would want the same. Reviewing your own judgments can also mean showing your children how to openly accept other people’s sexual experiences without judgment.
Sex education can be an odd source of confusion, but the more you get used to discussing it with your children, the easier it will be for them and you. An open approach helps create more sexually empowered people who are less likely to commit or accept abuse, and creates an overall healthier society.
Natasha’s passion for reproductive health began at the age of fourteen when she was present at the birth of her youngest sister. Her incredible experiences as a birthing doula gave her insights into the magical realm of childbirth, pregnancy and everything in between. Your role as an obstetrician is her way of serving as an activist. She uses writing as a key educational tool to change the way we view reproductive health as a whole.