The Talk. One of the most dreaded phrases in parenthood. Bring up the topic, and almost everyone will know to which talk you are referring.
Guest Post by TINA MATTSSON
Most of us probably didn’t have an official birds and the bees convo until closer to middle school age. But things are different now. Toddlers understand how to use a tablet and smart phone. Computers are in every home and in schools. The Internet is never more than a couple of clicks away. We need to start earlier to teach our children about healthy sexuality, so the Internet and media don’t do it for us.
But when to start? And how? And what topics are age appropriate for my children? These are common questions from parents. Many parents feel inadequate or awkward teaching this subject.
Educate and Empower Kids has made it our mission to help parents navigate these discussions. And notice the letter S at the end of discussions. This is not a one-time event. These discussions need to happen many, many times.
So, to get started, let’s first discuss why it’s so important to start early. Here are a few stats.
93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography during adolescence (Bilton, 2015).
Average age of exposure is 11.
Seven out of 10 youth have accidently come across porn online (Pornography Statistics).
28% of teens in one study had sent a sext (Statistics).
Now I’m not listing these statistics to scare you. These numbers prove that our kids will be exposed to porn at some point in their lives, most likely in their youth. Porn teaches the wrong lessons about healthy sexuality. The use of porn is associated with an increased callousness toward sex, a decreased satisfaction with the person’s real-life sexual partner, and acceptance of the rape myth (that women like to and want to be raped). Extended pornography use affects the brain chemistry and can lead to addiction. Porn damages relationships by putting the focus on your own pleasure without regard to your partner’s. Clearly it is much healthier for our children to learn about healthy sexuality from their parents rather than Internet porn or their friends. And because kids are seeing porn earlier and earlier, we need to teach them earlier.
So now what? Educate and Empower Kids offers a series of books, 30 Days of Sex Talks, with topics to lead your discussions. One is geared toward 3-7 year olds, one toward 8-11 year olds, and one for 12+ year olds. Many parents balk at the suggestion of teaching their 3-year-old about sex. But the sex talk has many important pre-discussions that can start at age 3. For example, it’s best for kids to be taught the correct terminology for their anatomy. Use the words penis, vagina, breast etc. Young children can also be taught about body autonomy. Their body is their body. If they do not want to hug someone, we should not make them. Good touch/bad touch is also important at this age.
As children age we can incorporate more topics, predators, body image, and media literacy for example. Teaching children about healthy sexuality is not just teaching them the mechanics of sex.
As we lead our children in these discussions, it’s important that we don’t shame them. Children are curious. Teens are even more curious. Having questions and being curious about sex is normal. We can reassure our teenage boy that he’s very normal for being aroused at times.
Some parents wonder if it’s necessary to have the 30 talks listed in the books every night and in the order listed. Definitely not. Start where you are comfortable and where it’s appropriate for your kids. The talks can be scheduled, but look for opportunities to bring up discussions naturally. And be prepared to answer your kids’ questions. The other day, my daughter asked me what it meant to be gay. We were able to have a nice discussion about this topic.
Parents often express fear about raising children in this day and age. But with open communication and honest discussions, it doesn’t have to be.
For more information and to find sample lesson plans to help get you started, visit the Educate and Empower Kids website.
Bilton, N. (2015, January 7). Parenting in the Age of Online Pornography. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from The New York Times
Pornography Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://www.internetsafety101.org/pornographystatistics.htm
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://purehope.net/resources/statistics/#Youth
Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education. She currently writes for Educate and Empower Kids, @EduEmpowerKids. For more resources about parenting and parenting talks, visit Educate and Empower Kids
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues and has released a report for parents and other caring adults, “12 Scary Apps” and interviews child protection experts on her weekly podcast. Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: BeAKidsHero™” at BeAKidsHero.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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