This is the question I am asked the most by parents. The short answer? Yesterday.
For myriad reasons, parents push talking to their kids about sexuality to the back burner. They hold out for as long as possible, hoping that their child won’t pick up anything from the kids on the playground, or from a friend’s older sibling. But the reality is they are — they are getting “information” (usually incredibly erroneous) from these sources. And thanks to modern technology, young children are watching and sharing pornography. The average age of a child viewing pornography is 11. Eleven. Let that sink in.
There are several things you as a parent can do to help prepare your child. The bottom line is, we want to raise sexually healthy adults who understand boundaries, consent and intimacy. After all, if you couldn’t guess, more than 90 percent of Americans will have sex at some point in their life.
Parents need to give their kids the tools to navigate a sexually saturated world. One of the biggest misconceptions many parents have about “the talk” is that it’s just one and done. Not to burst your bubble, but it’s actually several over the course of their early and adolescent years. And they usually take place in the most inconvenient and awkward times (yay, parenting).
The first step is to look at your own education. How did you learn about sex? What feelings do you have about your own “education,” if you had any at all? Do you want your child to have the same experience as you?
Before you can relay sensitive, value-laden information to your child, you’ll need to sift through your own issues and figure out what you believe about things like masturbation, nudity, gender roles, cohabitation, birth control, etc. Ew, right? Talking to your kids about this stuff is not easy, or fun. And no one can hand you a manual and say here, teach them this, because every family is different.
There are numerous resources to help you figure out what you believe and why you believe it — and there’s me! If you’d like to chat or submit an anonymous question, submit an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtney Boyer is a mental health counselor and sexuality educator living in the Sandhills.