Don't avoid the sex talk
25 November 2014, 08:11
Nairobi - We’ve been talking about a lot of “body stuff” at home over the last year or so. I’m a firm believer that the earlier the conversation starts, the better it will go, and the easier it will be to talk about.
As a mom, I’m happy with how the discussions have gone – from the wild questions that have been asked to the conclusions we’ve reached. But, as a mom, what’s really turned me cross-eyed is… discovering that there are still parents who actively avoid these conversations.
It bugs me. Here’s why: Would you put your kid on a horse and let them “figure it out for themselves”?
Yet – funnily enough, when I’ve asked fellow parents about how they talk about the birds, bees and body changes with their children, the most common response I get is that they’ll let their kids “figure it out for themselves”. But, that’s not all – there have been a variety of responses handed to me over the last while, so here are my responses to them:
“They’ll figure it out for themselves”
If that’s your chosen method, then you must be the type of parent who puts their kid on horse without giving them lessons. Sorry, did I offend you? Good. Because, if anything, you’re assuming that your child will “instinctively” know what to do and how to feel about their body changes and, sadly, that’s not how it works. Puberty can be a time of much self-questioning and concern for children.
You’re doing your children a disservice by ignoring their need for information and denying them an avenue for asking questions in a space they trust and are comforted by.
Also see: How to: One night stands
The solution? The adult in this equation needs to start acting like one.
“School will do it”
Yes, if your child attends school, they probably will be given a special day of talking about their body changes, puberty and suchlike. I remember mine clearly: we had girls in hysterics for days because they had just learnt, in a mass education situation, that they would wake up one day, have a period every month and that there was nothing they could do about it.
Their parents had told them nothing, not even a small indication of the body changes they could expect and, well, that some of them were already going through.
And they did. They showed us a grainy, abstinence-promoting video that was intended to stop us from having sex because of its graphic representation of what happens during an abortion. Would you like to know what came of that session? A dear friend retched up her lunch the whole way through and almost every single one of us were left feeling traumatised. Leaving these lessons to mass education is unfair and traumatic. That approach did nothing to create a comfortable, cohesive dialogue around awareness.
“I don't feel comfortable talking about it”
What don’t you feel comfortable talking about? You have a body, you are an adult…so I can only assume that you went through the exact body changes your child went through, travelled through puberty and became an adult? I have to ask then: are you ashamed of your body?
If so, is that the example you were hoping to set for your child?
“It’s Mom’s Job/It’s Dad’s Job”
Okay, okay…I’ll give you this one, just not the way you’d like me to. Sure, it may be easier for Dad and Son to chat, or Mom and Daughter to chat but what happens if your child has a question they’d rather ask the other parent to answer? Will you just hope it goes away?
Let your child know that, even if you have the discussion with them, both parents are available to answer questions.
“But I don’t know when to start talking about it…so I’ll just avoid it”
Each child, family and parent is different but, I’ll let you in a little secret my mom told me (and yes, she did have “the talk” with me, including graphic diagrams and many late night question and answer sessions)… it’s time to talk about body changes the second your child asks a question about it.
No, that doesn’t mean you should bombard them with information but it does mean you can, and should, be guided by them. The second they ask why “mommy wears those pads” or comes home with a “Mom, Henry says babies come from storks…is that true?”… It’s time.
Birds and bees are a big deal, least of all to you.
It’s your job. Start early. Start easy.
It could become one of your fondest memories.