TIPS ON HOW TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX

BODY IMAGE, MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, USEFUL

A useful one this week. One I know I am going to come back to time and time again. Pre having kids I imagined myself to be the type of parent who is brilliant at talking to kids about sex. The reality falls short of that: it’s an area I feel under confident and not as knowledgable as I’d like. Thankfully Georgia Rose a clincial sexologist is here to help with a comprehensive, resource-filled list:

GOOD SEX ED IS NOT HAPPENING AT SCHOOLS. FACT.

  • Do you remember your sex education growing up?

  • Wrestling condoms onto bananas?

  • Watching fear-mongering teenage pregnancy videos at school? 

  • Or, in my case, an elderly RE teacher theatrically blowing up a condom in front of us as if it were a balloon, yelling ‘never let him tell you that it’s too small to fit him, girls’ whilst wielding the bloated spermicidal blimp above her head. 

  • Or, perhaps you don’t remember any sex ed at all which means you are in the majority, according to my own research on this topic.

  • Among the 500+ women who told me about their sex education growing up, most learned information about sex through speaking with friends, through their own experiences and through media representations of sex scenes. 

  • Not via schools. 

  • Not via educational materials. 

  • Not via parental guidance.

  • Sadly, the state of comprehensive sex ed doesn’t seem much more enlightened in 2020.

  • IT’S STILL ALL ROUTED IN SCAREMONGERING, cried the children who spoke to the International Planned Parenthood Federation last year. 

  • IT EXCLUDES LGBTQ+ SEXUALITY, revealed a 2018 study led in the UK about our state of sex ed.

  • IT DOESN’T FACTOR IN ANYTHING ABOUT THE JOY AND PLEASURE OF SEX, says … well, essentially all sex experts campaigning for more comprehensive sex ex for our kids.

  • Stateside, the picture is even less encouraging. ‘Just say no’ and ‘abstinence before marriage’ dominates most of the sex ed programs in public schools today.  FYI, the nine states in American where sex ed is not mandatory in schools have some of the highest teenage birth rates in the US. Go figure. 

THIS LEAVES PARENTS TO DO “THE SEX TALK” HEAVY LIFTING

  • Until our schools and governments catch up with the times, the burden of responsibility to provide young people with factually correct, empowering and pragmatic sex ed comes down to their parents or guardians.

  • And this can be hard.

  • We don’t like talking about sex.

  • It’s awkward.

  • It’s private.

  • I remember being scolded as a child for touching my ‘front bottom’* at primary school. I also remember my father, bless him, calling sex ‘thingy’ and fast forwarding the VHS if said ‘thingy’ came on screen during Friday night family movie time.

  • * Euphemistic nicknames for genitals. Foos-foos, wee-wees, twinkles, minis. It’s my pet peeve. They’re smacked with shame and a strange hush-hush secrecy. Why shouldn’t we use the word ‘vulva’ or ‘penis’ in front of a child, why is this considered inappropriate? Children need to use the correct words to prepare them for adult life and to equip them with confidence and empowerment about their own bodies. And God-forbid a child is touched inappropriately ‘down there’ or feels any discomfort – that child will need the correct language to properly communicate their feelings and version of events. A twinging twinkle might not quite cut it.

  • Rant over.

  • But we’ve seen that society is reluctant to have open conversations about sex.

  • And so, it can be really uncomfortable to puncture the pervading culture of silence.

  • Especially if we ourselves were brought up bereft of legit role-models and resources that normalised talking about sex.

  • How do we know then how to suddenly pioneer cool, no-nonsense yet approachable conversations about sex to our kids? How do we even know what is age-appropriate to tell them? 

  • Perhaps it’s just easier to leave it, turn a blind eye.

  • We’re mostly all fine, aren’t we? 

  • We groped our way blindly through adolescence and we’re all still here to tell the tale. 

  • Plus, we don’t want to scare our kids, or tell them things that will distress them/encourage them/put ideas in their head/generally fuck them up…

NO! DON’T DO THAT! SEX ED + SPEAKING OPENLY ABOUT SEX IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU MAY THINK!

  • Comprehensive sex ed is essential for the healthy development of our children.

  • That’s obvious.

  • And the reasons are self-explanatory really:

  • So that they can grow into empowered adults who can make informed, healthy sexual decisions.

  • So that they know how to take care of their sexual health and are not confused by myths or misinformation (which, FYI, currently plague the current sexual landscape!)

  • So that they can navigate their own sexuality and sexual relationships armed with knowledge and a set of values.

  • So that they create nourishing relationships underpinned with consent and joy.

  • Still not convinced?

  • Well, if we continue to not talk openly and honestly about sex, an information vacuum is created.

  • And the freedom of access to pornography online rushes to fill it.

  • And it results in porn becoming, by default, the sex education of today.

  • And this is what is happening among our youth and young adults: a generation is growing up believing that what they see in pornography is the way to have sex.

  • And surely, I don’t need to explain why this is really a disastrous thing…

A LIST OF RESOURCES FOR PARENTS TO USE TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT SEX

  • So…it’s up for us to take the reins when it comes to speaking to kids about sex.

  • Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet.

  • Yes, it brings its problems, but it also democratises information.

  • Enter stage left: compassionate and informed organisations, initiatives and individuals taking sex ed into their own hands and sharing the good word online, for free.

  • Hurrah!

  • Here is my introductory guide to reliable resources online to cater for the different development stages of the sex education journey for kids and teens.

  • Plus, some helpful resources for parents, to help navigate fruitful conversations with their kids about sex

  • It can be hard to know where to start or how to broach this huge topic age-appropriately.

  • I hope this can help.

FOR LITTLE KIDDIES:

  • AMAZE

  • www.amaze.org / @amazeorg

  • Free

  • Medically accurate

  • Aims to take “the awkward out of sex ed” by providing original content and reliable information via fun, age-appropriate animated videos

  • SEX-ED SCHOOL

  • www.sexedschool.ca/ @sexedschool

  • A web series hosted by acclaimed and industry-awarded sex educators Nadine and Eva

  • Each episode takes part in a classroom setting, featuring children between the age of 9-12

  • Guest teachers feature from all sexual orientations, identities and body types, guiding children through fun, thought-provoking activities about sex, love and healthy relationships

  • Fresh, modern and intuitive

FOR TEENS:

  • BISH

  • A guide to sex, love and relationships for everyone over 14

  • Excellent original content, ranging from articles to videos to illustrations and animations

  • It’s for all genders and sexualities, people with disabilities, different backgrounds, beliefs and values 

  • It’s also sponsored by Durex!

  • HANNAH WITTON

  • www.hannahwitton.com / @hannahwitton

  • A sex educator who is also a successful YouTuber, podcaster and sex-positive influencer – how millennial!

  • Her YouTube content is approachable, charming and educational

  • Her ‘Hormone Diaries’ are particularly interesting

  • Their brand: “sex ed for the real world for teens and young adults”

  • Highly acclaimed and hugely awarded, visited by 8 million people a year

  • Because Scarleteen has been around for over 20 years, there is SO MUCH information.

  • They shine a light on everything, from sexual communication to disability to gender identity and sexual abuse

  • They also have a community message board, a text message Q+A service and a live chat feature on their website

  • I wish I knew about them when I was a teen!

  • SEX, Etc

  • www.sexetc.org / @sexetc

  • Sex education by teens, for teens

  • An innovative ‘from the roots up’ way of educating teens about sex

  • Includes polls, an instant message service, informative and inclusive videos, personal stories, a magazine with 45,000 subscribers, a blog… 

FOR PARENTS ONLY:

  • BIRDS + BEES + KIDS

  • www.birdsandbeesandkids.com / @birddandbees

  • A platform to teach parents how to effectively speak to their kids about sex

  • Set up by Amy Lang, a sex education expert with nearly 30 years of experience

  • As Amy says, “the reality is if you don’t talk to your kids about sex someone else will…”

  • Provides tips and pointers for parents on:

    • the best ways to broach the topic of sex with their kids

    • what to say at each age to avoid too much information

    • how to position conversations to keep dialogues open, trusting and non-patronising

  • SEX POSITIVE FAMILIES

    • www.sexpositivefamilies.com

    • A destination for shame-free sexual health education for all ages

    • It emphasises the positives and pleasure of sex

    • A go-to space for parenting advice with a ton of book recommendations, plus links to great audio and visual resources, broken down for different age groups

TO CONCLUDE: VIVA LA EDUCATION!

  • Our youth of today deserve to have access to all the necessary components to stay healthy, empowered and out of harm’s way as sexual beings.

  • And remember, sex education doesn’t end after you leave school.

  • As a clinical sexologist and sex coach in training, as well as the founder of G’s Spot – a digital platform devoted to female sexual pleasure – I believe that we need to continue working on ourselves to be sexually informed, confident and pleasured.

  • As we grow and change, and get to know ourselves better with age, we deserve to devote time and energy into our sexual schooling and sexual wellness. This is especially critical since so many of us had such lacklustre sex education at school – we have a lot of holes to fill (pun intended!) and time to make up!

  • Cheers to an investment in an everlasting sexuality education – for our kids, and for ourselves.

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