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Let's Talk About...

November 15, 2014 - Colleen Carpenter
Sex. If you listened to pop music in 1990, you now have the ear worm from Salt-N-Pepa echoing inside your head. Sorry about that. Well, not really. If you don't know the song, let me share some of the lyrical highlights:

"Yo, I don't think we should talk about this Come on, why not? People might misunderstand What we're tryin' to say, you know? No, but that's a part of life

Let's talk about sex, baby Let's talk about you and me Let's talk about all the good things And the bad things that may be

Let's talk about sex

Let's talk about sex for now To the people at home or in the crowd It keeps coming up anyhow Don't decoy, avoid or make void the topic Cuz that ain't gonna stop it Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows Many will know anything goes

Let's tell it how it is and how it could be How it was and of course how it should be"

Wise philosophers Salt-N-Pepa (and the often excluded Spinderella), make some valid points. Ignoring the topic of sex doesn't make it stop. This leads me to a facebook post I made a couple of weeks ago which encouraged my facebook friends to talk to their children about sex. "I promise you, they're talking about it with their friends and getting bogus information. There isn't a "too young" to talk about sex, only age appropriate. Obviously the depth of the discussion will vary based on age, but don't wait until middle school, folks!"

The status gained 30 comments rather quickly. And then I started getting texts about it. Then an invitation to talk on the radio about it. Apparently this is one of those things parents stress over, know they need to do, and don't know how or don't know what to say. I'm not an expert, but I know about child sexual abuse prevention. That may not seem like a logical connection, but it definitely is. Why? Because if you don't educate your child, someone else will and it could be someone planning to take advantage of them. So, my advice is:

1. Teach your children the anatomical names for their body parts. My son calls a penis a penis. That shouldn't be scandalous, laughed at, or otherwise made into a big deal. He also calls his nose a nose, and his arm an arm. Research shows why this is an effective method of child sexual abuse prevention: *A child who uses proper terms is seen as intelligent and articulate. This makes them less of a target to predators, because the child is more likely to tell on them and, not just tell on them, but can make it very clear exactly what took place. When a child is taught the anatomical terms they are less likely to feel that these areas are to be ashamed of or that they are dirty. If they hear them only in hushed tones, it gives these names a forbidden feel as if they should never be discussed. Many adults are uncomfortable saying these terms and talking about sex. Teaching them to your child and constantly repeating them as they learn and, as most children do, become obsessed with naming all their body parts, you will get comfortable saying them. If you are uncomfortable or feel ashamed talking about it, your child will, too. This will make it easier to know how to talk to your child about sex, sexual abuse, puberty…basically anything that has to do with that area of the body in age appropriate ways and it will help them to feel more at ease to ask you questions and talk to you about these subjects, as well. *

2. Have an age appropriate conversation with your child about sex. You may not know what an age appropriate conversation is for a kid. That's okay! My suggestion is to start with, "I'm sure you've heard the word sex before. What does that word mean to you?" My experience and the experiences of my friends with children around the same age (8,9, and 10 year olds) have been given very similar replies about two people on a bed kissing. Sometimes they include "naked" and sometimes they don't. Just know that your kid HAS heard the word sex and they DO have an idea of what it means. How you respond after that is up to you, but...

3. Be honest. Questions from my child have included, "Have you and dad had sex?" "Will you have sex while we're on vacation?" and "Do people ever get too old for sex?" My answers were all honest. I did ask him why he wanted to know about vacation. He said because we all share a room and he really didn't think he should be around if that was going to happen. My answer to the "too old" question went as follows, "Well, sometimes when men get older, they have problem with their" and was interrupted with, "Nevermind. I don't want to know." And that's okay. I didn't force him to listen to a question he really didn't want to have answered. It's also okay to say, "I'm not sure how to answer that. I need to think about it and answer you in a little while." It's better to put off answering a question that shocks you then gasp, turn red, or scold the child for asking. But always answer them. If you don't, someone else will.

4. Use teachable moments. Commercials, songs, movie previews, magazine ads, sex is everywhere. I recently saw my 9 year old smirk at a preview for the movie "Sex Tape." He is very literal and was probably trying to figure out how tape was used in sex. I asked him if there was something he wanted to talk about. That's when he asked me if people get too old for sex. It doesn't have to be this awkward, planned, scripted discussion. In fact...

5. Talking about sex isn't "The Talk." It's an open and on-going dialogue. Kids talk at school, on the bus, on the playground, online, etc. Their bodies are going to change and they're going to hear "facts" from their peers. They need to know that YOU are the go-to person for the truth. I've met middle schoolers who have asked if boys can have babies and some who use slang that I have to search the internet to understand. Please don't make your kid rely on his friends for accurate information.

I've included links for you to use to help you prepare. It's like changing the batteries in your smoke detector. You know it's time, but it's easier to just put it off. Don't wait for a fire and wish you had done it. Be confident and open and know that you aren't scarring your child. Share the link to this blog and start a facebook conversation of your own. And my last tip is... breathe deeply and practice your "this isn't bothering me" face.

P.S. There are loads of books for kids of all ages on the subject. Use these as a supplement, not a replacement.


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