Masturbation. Testicle. Vagina. Clitoris. Why beat around the bush? These are real words to include in sexual education and are essential to what makes us human. And parents, there's no comfortable or easy way around it. An effective conversation about sex and pleasure will be in-your-face, honest and accurate. It's a discussion that you want to happen between you and your children sooner rather than later.
Among high school-aged adolescents, 46.8% have had sexual intercourse, and even more alarming, 40.9% did not use a condom the last time they had sex -- according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control. I strongly believe, as a parent educator and a mother of six, that not talking to your children about sexual activity puts them at risk for participating in risky sexual behavior.
If children are only taught the basics of sex as they grow up, chances are they'll look to the Internet, media and friends to answer their questions. They won't grow to understand the responsibility, boundaries and consent that is an essential part of exploring their sexuality.
So, if the idea of having this conversation absolutely mortifies you, ask yourself this: "Do I want my child to grow up and understand what a healthy, normal, sexual relationship is?"
While you squirm in your seat about how and when you're going to approach this topic as a family, here are three reasons to start talking to your kids about sex and pleasure right now:
- It shows you support their ability and need to be able to talk about sex.
If your kids are going to grow to one day have healthy sexual relationships with themselves and their partner, then they ought to be able to talk about it. It's the same for topics like finance. You don't just tell your kids to make money and save it. You explain to them why it is essential and how it works because you want them to develop healthy financial habits.
- It helps ensure that they will be able to identify when they are emotionally and physically ready to explore their sexuality.
I was open with my children about masturbation and self-pleasure because I wanted them to understand their own bodies before they grew to believe that pleasure was only something to be gained by being with someone else. Feeling comfortable in your own skin leaves no room later for feelings of shame or embarrassment. I suggest that instead of just talking to your children about their bodies as if they're parts in a well-oiled machine, talk to them about how important it is for them to really know their bodies. This is a conversation that can take place over time and in small doses until the child has gained the maturity to fully comprehend what you are saying.
- Talking openly about sex and knowing yourself puts you in a position to communicate with your partners in the same way. This leads to healthier relationships and experiences all around. Since you've spent years having the conversation with your kids, they'll grow with a high level of confidence in discussing sex with a partner. They will be better prepared to identify situations and people who present high-risk sexual encounters. Helping our kids develop the necessary skills to be able to articulate their wants and needs, puts them less at risk to be taken advantage of by predators and future partners.
It's our responsibility as parents to give our children accurate depictions of life, so they truly can assess the world in which they live in. My parenting philosophy, Duct Tape Parenting, provides time-tested tools to help parents embrace the opportunities that invite kids to participate, make mistakes and learn life long confidence along the way. Let's not make sex something they have to navigate on their own and do our part and step up and have the conversation.