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Kids sex education: three simple words that make parents cringe.
There’s no question that discussing topics relating to sex with kids can be uncomfortable and even difficult for many parents. As much as exposure to sex and sexuality has increased over the past few decades, just the thought of having conversations about such subjects can stress parents out, even today.
When I was a teen in the 90s, it was considered taboo to even say the word. So much so that when this song was released, there was enormous controversy about it simply because of the title and topic.
Now the word sex is everywhere – and so is everything else that comes with it. It’s crazy to think that Janet Jackson was slandered and CBS heavily fined for the now famous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the 2004 Superbowl, yet the exact same TV station – and many others – have programming that is flooded with images and discussion that thinly borderlines soft pornography. Nudity and suggestive and graphic images and language is in music, on highway billboards, food and beverage labeling, magazines, music videos, and of course, the internet.
With sex being everywhere, parents now find themselves in a newfound struggle. Long gone are the days where protection from such images and messages is easy. In today’s society, parents have to work to find a balance between acceptance of ‘the new normal’ and instilling personal values and body confidence.
The good news is that when it comes to finding this balance, parents don’t have to go it alone. There are a wide array of great kids sex education resources available to help parents discuss these sensitive topics with their children. One such resource is www.amaze.org., a website for parents and educators that offers real information in fun, animated videos that give all the answers kids actually want to know about sex, their bodies, and having healthy relationships.
I recently spoke with Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth. During our discussion, she shared some valuable information on sex communication with kids, as well as some helpful tips on how parents can support their child’s sex education and curiosity, while simultaneously teaching the importance of healthy sexual attitudes.
kids sex education
MELISASource: How can parents talk to their kids about the sexual images and messages they see and hear in the media?
Debra Hauser: As parents, we know that the sexual acts in the media are exaggerated. They last longer than normal sexual acts. So they skew young peoples’ ideas of what sex and sexuality sometimes are, and it’s really important to have a conversation with them about what they’re seeing and what is reality. So that would be my suggestion is to use it as an opening for a conversation, and chances are your child will be embarrassed, feel uncomfortable, tell you that they didn’t really see it, all kinds of things. But just talk through it. They’re actually listening to you even when they are pretending that they’re not.
kids sex education
DH: The research shows us that mostly moms are doing the talking, but it’s really important for both. If you’re lucky enough to have both parents, it’s helpful to have conversations, because everyone’ll come at it from a different angle. Some of the information that you’re providing is fact-based, of course, but so much of it is also about your values and your attitudes, and just hearing your experiences. And so I think it is important for both parents, a mom and a dad, or even if it’s two moms, two dads – no matter what it’s important to have more than one person talking to a young person so that they see that there are different people that they can go to for information.
Just remember that you don’t have to have all the right answers, you just wanna open up the conversation so that when your young person really does need you they know that you will be there for them without judgement, and that they can come to you for help. So it’s perfectly okay to say, “You know what, I don’t know that answer. Let’s go find out. Let’s go search together.” All those things are really important
kids sex education
MLS: How can parents learn to be more comfortable when discussing sexuality with their children?
DH: We are all raised in a society where people are not necessarily comfortable with sex and sexuality, and so we use sex and sexuality to sell things, everything from hamburgers to cars, but we’re not really comfortable having honest conversations. And so my biggest advice to parents is be gentle with yourself.
Unfortunately, it comes from the culture that we’ve grown up in. We’ve been sort of told that sexuality might be something bad or dirty, when in fact sexuality is a normal, healthy part of being human, and it’s really the more you can get that across to your children that sexuality is part of who they are, that these changes are part of who they are. And they’re a healthy good thing. The most important thing to relay to children is that they have agency over their feeling and emotions—that they have control over what they do with their sexuality, what they do, how they act, and interact with other people. They never have to go along with the crowd. They never have to do anything that doesn’t feel right or comfortable to them, or that goes against their personal beliefs and values.
Lastly, my suggestion would just be to be authentic and honest and to say that, it’s a little strange or it’s a little comfortable probably for both of you. But that’s important, it’s really essential. If they don’t get the information from you, they’re gonna get it from someplace else and it’s always better that it comes from someone that you trust or from you yourself.
kids sex education
MLS: How can parents support or otherwise supplement sex education in schools?
DH: In some areas of the country, there is abstinence only education, while in others, there is education that focuses primarily on the practice of safe sex. As a parent, it’s your choice whether you let your child go or don’t let them go, but it’s definitely encouraged to add to what they’re hearing in school, and to do so according to your own values. Ultimately, it’s really important that they know that sex and sexuality is normal and healthy, and that whenever they have questions or concerns, or want to discuss their bodies and what they are feeling, that you’re there for them. The most important thing is that kids have the affirmation and support they need from their parents, and receive positive messages that they are perfect as they are.
Without a doubt, parents play a critical role in educating their kids about their changing bodies, sex and healthy relationships. By taking the awkwardness out of parent-child communication and establishing balance, parents can ensure that they have equipped their kids with the information and support they need to make the decisions about their sexuality and bodies that are best for them.
kids sex education
This post is made possible by support from AMAZE. All opinions are my own.