The days are long gone when the talk of “the birds and the bees” was literally “the talk.” Today’s version is the much more complicated “the birds and the bees, death, and disease.” Instead of “the talk” (still dreaded by parents and children alike) it’s “the talkS.” This is the point where I apologize for my subject matter because I know many of you will disagree with the things I am about to say, particularly those of you with strict religious beliefs.
I am in no way implying that my viewpoint, and approach with my own now adult children is the only right way to address the following issues. I firmly believe that there are many ways to do something the right way, just as there are many ways to do things the wrong way. Parenting just like relationships are extremely private, and decisions regarding what is right for those involved can only be decided on an individual basis by those who are in those relationships.
My husband and I decided very early on that protecting our children from the harsh consequences of early sexual experimentation took precedence over our discomfort with having sex talks with them. We do not subscribe to the idea that educating children at a younger age on sexual matters causes them to engage in sex earlier than they might have if we had chosen not to educate them. We taught our children right from the start the correct names of their anatomy. We taught them that they were in charge of their bodies. That their bodies were important, and as they grew their bodies would go through very natural changes in their own individual timing. We reinforced a sense of privacy along with the concept that just like we don’t share our toothbrushes, our underware, or our drinks with others, we also do not share our thoughts on these subjects with other children. We explained that only parents were allowed to teach their children these matters. We told them that they could ask us anything they wanted to know regarding these matters because we would make sure to give them the correct answers.
From preschool through elementary school our many conversations ranged from proper labels, privacy, the differences between the genders, good touch & bad touch, using your instinct as a trusted guidance for what felt right and what felt wrong, self-respect, and respect for others. We also explained to them that it was natural to be curious about your own body, but that it was a very private thing just like going to the restroom. It was perfectly okay but something we do alone. The more we talked the more they shared their thoughts and the things their friends were telling them. I will not lie sometimes you just wanted to cringe and revert back to the good o’ days of our childhood and push the subjects off to another time, but we stuck to the plan and the talks became great tools for educating while removing the sense of shame regarding these subjects.
Then came the middle school era. This was the point where we left the anatomical explanations straight into the reasons why people have sex, who they have sex with, masturbation, gay sex, straight sex, sexual abuse, pregnancy, diseases, proper ages to engage in sex. The list just like the complicated nature of each subject was endless. Subjects I believe many people put off way too long living in the comfortable but highly false world of “my kids aren’t aware of those things yet,” believe me they are aware, and some of their friends are already engaging in sex at this point! We did not want to slip into the world of denial. The harsh consequences completely outweighed our desire to run and hide. We live in a world where unplanned pregnancy was actually the best thing that could happen. Diseases, reoccurring outbreaks and symptoms that can become a permanent part of your life, and worst of all the ones that can end your child’s life! Predators who may be strangers, but in most cases our people we know and trust. Even worse parents today are dealing with all the extra exposure technology can bring into your children’s lives. Sex is everywhere and by nature we are all naturally drawn to sexual behavior.
We chose to stick with our plan and answer every question as openly, and honestly, explaining every possible scenario we could think of trying to keep morality and, respect at the forefront, while leaving shame out of the picture. We told them that the only way to be completely safe was to abstain, or through self masturbation. We told them that the majority of people engage in sexual acts just because their bodies have matured. We told them that the mind takes longer to develop sexual maturity, and that masturbation was the best solution to deal with natural urges because people should be completely aware of their own bodies, as well as, the fact that it gave their minds more time to catch up with their body’s sexual maturity. We told them that attraction was a very individual characteristic where they would discover if they would be attracted to the opposite sex, the same-sex, or maybe even both sexes. We told them that we would love, and respect who they were. To always have respect for other people’s individuality. That the only important thing was to be safe. We told them that no one who cared for them would hurt them or try to persuade them to do anything that would make them feel shame in any way. We talked about the many ways people do engage in sex including oral and anal. We bought latex contraceptives,oral contraceptives, including the dental dam (for oral vaginal and oral anal sex). We opened them and demonstrated how to properly use them. We had them demonstrate usage. We made sure they knew that if those contraceptives where not latex then they would not prevent disease. That they should be used even during foreplay, with no exceptions! We explained that if you are not comfortable using and discussing protection you are not ready to have sex. We made sure they knew that even with protection you are not 100% safe. We explained what could go wrong with contraception including tears, accidental removal and expiration dates. We told them that they were responsible for always having their own protection, never to believe that it’s someone else’s responsibility. We kept a drawer well supplied with all contraceptives in our bathroom with the understanding that it would always be there and that this meant they could never endanger themselves.
By the time high school came about we had reached a level of trust and openness. Both children were upfront about their decisions to have sex. I know as parents we would like them to wait until they are older and more experienced with their world. The truth is that the majority of young people today rarely make it to high school without having a sexual encounter. As parents we felt that our job was to protect and educate our children in every way possible. We have been confronted with a great deal of opposition and disapproval regarding our parenting choices regarding sex. I can only tell you that our choices were the right choices for our family and that we have no regrets! 😉