Thursday, June 14, 2012

When to Talk about...You Know...::whispers:: SEX (Part 1)

A few of my girlfriends and I were out the other night and the conversation turned to something that is a huge frustration with me:  Parents not talking to their kids about sex.

Look, I get it.  You might feel uncomfortable about it.  Probably because your parents made you feel uncomfortable when they talked to you about it (my husband will tell you about a book entitled The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made and the phrase "special marriage hug."), thus making you feel like maybe you should be awkward with your kids when you talk to them about sex.

Well, I don't know about you, but I do things a lot differently than my parents did.  So I don't see why, if awkward was the precedent, it should be maintained.  (Note:  I actually think my parents did a good job in this arena, but more on that later).  Sex is all around us.  TV.  Magazines.  You can't go to a grocery store without seeing cleavage when you go through the checkout.  Kids pick up on stuff.

For the record, I started reading Judy Blume books when I was seven.  So I was pretty well-informed about a lot of things by the time I hit puberty.

The thing is, unfortunately people don't know how to handle talking about sex with their kids.  And honestly, I feel like saying to them, Get over it.

If you are a parent, there's a pretty good chance that you had sex at least once in your life.  We all do it at some point.  It's just one of those things.  And the best thing you can do for your kid is to make talking about sex a normal thing, so they aren't freaked out about it.

You want to know the kicker?  The best time to start talking about sex with your kids  When they're little.  Even as little as mine.

I'm not saying you should give them a blow by blow, but you can start introducing concepts.  For instance, whenever we visit Jon for lunch, we drive by our old apartment complex.  "Look, Bug," I always say cheerfully, "that's where you were conceived!"  You can start talking about body parts.  You can acknowledge that boys and girls are different.  This is key not only in helping them learn about  how their bodies function, but also allowing them to develop a positive self-image.

Most importantly, when they come to you with questions, because you have established that you are willing to talk to them about this, you will be able to have a dialogue about it.

I cannot tell you how many people I know who have gotten pregnant as teenagers because they were simply misinformed about how their bodies work.  Every time a politician tries to get rid of sex ed classes I totally cringe.  Studies actually show that kids who attend sex ed classes and are informed about things like how easy it is to get pregnant (especially when you're a teenager and are in prime babymaking time) and how easy it is to contract an STD will actually have sex later than their peers who do not attend classes.

You've got to talk to your kids.  You've got to get over yourself.  If I hear one more girl say something like, "Well, I thought I couldn't get pregnant if I was on top" or "Well, he said if he pulled out..."  Hearing things like this makes me want to bang my head into the wall, folks.

I am all for teaching abstinence, and I think that should be the first thing you talk to your kids about.  But I also believe in discussing consequences.  How things work.  Because at the end of the day, it's about the information that you have provided and what they do with that information.  And I don't know about you, but as for me, I want my kids to understand what could happen--and I want them to know that they can always come to me and their dad.

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