First Thing: Accept Your Discomfort
But how can you be expected to do so if you haven’t resolved your own issues about sex? Do you remember the extreme discomfort of the “sex-talk” that your parents had with you? And, did your first learning about sex pretty much consist of overhearing the grossly exaggerated tales of your older brother’s friends in high school?
The sad truth is, that for many of us, the extent of our sex education was the brief anatomy lesson we had in health class, coupled by a girl’s parents’ warning that, “Boys only want one thing – don’t give it to them!” or, a boy’s parents’ warning that “You better not bring any babies into this house!”
Is it then any wonder that when we have children of our own, we teach them to be equally uncomfortable with their bodies and their sexuality? We give their genitals pet names like “kitty cat, cupcake, or peter,” and cut them the “side-eye” at their mere mention of their vagina or penis. The idea that they would consult with us about the kinds of contraception they should use as adolescents is a conversation that is just too much for most parents to handle, and we all but forget to teach them that there is a stark difference between sex and intimacy.
How To Survive Having “The Talk”
Rather than holding your breath and hoping that you can dodge, “The Talk,” take the opportunity to talk to your child about sex in stride. Just as you have had a hand in teaching them how to ride a bike, how to tie their shoes, how to dust themselves off and keep going after they’ve taken a tumble…talk to them about what it means to share themselves in such an intimate way with another person:
• Be Honest About Your Feelings. Begin by letting them know that it’s an equally uncomfortable conversation for you, and while you may not have all of the answers that they might be looking for (remember, our children are living in a much different time than when we were coming up), you’re more than willing to help them find the answers to make the best decisions for them.
• Cover All Topics. Don’t be afraid to discuss all aspects of sex with your child, from abstinence to masturbation, to homosexuality, and everything in between.
• Help Them Be Healthier. Remember, if you don’t talk to your child about the various aspects of sex, then you miss out on the opportunity to influence how they will see, and eventually engage, in their sexual activities.
The notion that talking to your child(ren) about sex will suggest to them that you encourage or support a particular behavior is a farce, as your child will ultimately make the decision that they think is best for them when the time comes. The most that we can hope for as parents is that we have provided them with enough information so that their best decision is a well informed one, regardless of the nests or pots of honey they choose to sample from.