Hi Parents and Caregivers, Let’s talk about IT.
You know… IT... the TALK.
IT is about puberty, relationships, sexuality and so many things! Join us for "Let’s Talk Month" which emphasizes the importance of young people and the adults they trust talking about sex.
Recently, I asked several groups of caregivers who were seeking sex ed programs for their children, “What brings you here?” and “What do you hope your kids will get out of sex ed?
Concerned voices commonly responded with:
I just want them to know more than I did
I don't know what to say. I never really learned about this stuff either.
So much has changed since sex ed in my day
Where should I start? My kids haven't said anything yet so I don't know when to bring it up?
This part of parenting is such a relatable challenge to tackle. But it’s so worth it! It's important to push through the awkwardness and anxiety together because :
Because your children love you and need you. They actually want to be able to talk about sexuality with you.
Because you love your children and want them to grow up to be healthy, capable and positive in their intimate relationships.
Because you are their first and most important sexuality educator. That trust began with the intimacy of the closeness of touch as infants, onward as you have provided for them and continues on as you grow together.
Because your children WILL get sexuality information from many places outside the home. It’s your job to interpret, affirm or correct those other sources and influences.
Finally, it's a fact that young people who can talk to their parents are better equipped to make healthy decisions with their bodies and in their relationships. CDC data consistently shows that “Parental communication about sex education topics with their teenagers is associated with delayed sexual initiation and increased birth control method and condom use among sexually experienced teenagers (1-4).
So let’s work together to be an askable adult in our young people’s lives.
An ASKABLE ADULT is someone that young people can go to with questions. They can trust the adult will be consistently approachable and capable of mutual conversation.
Here are some helpful strategies* to keep in mind:
Normalize: Reassure them that they’re normal.
Build Their Self-esteem: Credit them for their talents, personalities, and accomplishments.
Remind them frequently that they are capable and lovable.
Do Not Pry: Respect your children’s privacy as much as you value your own.
Language is Important: Use correct names for sex organs and sexual behaviors. For example: Say vagina rather than a nickname (coochie, titi, etc). Learn the vocabulary and practice saying them out loud if you are embarrassed.
Use Teachable Moments: Take advantage of “teachable moments.” A friend’s pregnancy, neighborhood gossip, a steamy scene you saw together on TV, etc.
Answer Questions Simply and Directly: Give accurate, honest, short, and simple answers.
Listen: When your child approaches you with a question or concern, stop and listen. Hold your own immediate reaction (shock, advice, solutions) while you explore what he/she is trying to say. Listen More Than you Talk
Don't Make Assumptions. Just because your child is curious about something doesn't mean they are doing it. For example, “How old do you have to be to do it?” does not mean your child is having—or is thinking about having—sex right now.
Be Available: Let your children know that you’re available, and make it a habit to talk about what you think and feel.
Ask Questions: Even if they don’t ask you questions, ask them about what they think and what they know.
Be Gentle: Use your children’s mistakes as positive opportunities for learning. It won’t help them learn if you criticize, nag, lecture, or shout.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open: Let your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice support what you say with words.
Learn Their World: Get to know the world your children live in. What pressures are they feeling? What do they consider normal? What’s “cool”? If you show interest in their activities and friends, they’ll know you care and want to be a part of their lives.
Be Patient: Your children hear and learn about sexuality from lots of different sources. You will need to clarify, repeat and build on your child’s knowledge as they mature. You can expect the same questions to recur. Remember, Learning about sexuality is a life-long process.
Keep Your Sense of Humor: But don’t laugh at your children.
Remember you are not alone and YOU CAN DO THIS!
Here is your first action step after reading this: Join other awesome caregivers and sign up for the Askable Parent Challenge through this link at Amaze.Org for a customized guide to support your next "TALK".
AMAZE.org. Try the askable parent challenge: https://amaze.org/askableparent/
“Let’s Talk“ resources by SHIFT NC https://www.shiftnc.org/resources/for-parents
Sex Positive Families - website, newsletter and books available
Research cited in this blog: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db44.htm