Opinion

Are parents too scared to talk about sex? | Amy Johnson

October is a spooky month, replete with ghosts, goblins, witches, and scary stuff galore.

Yet, nothing is quite as scary to many adults as knowing that October is “Family Sexuality Education Month.”

That’s right, it’s time to start (or keep) talking.

Perhaps you are among the crowd of parents thinking, “I already had that talk with my child.”

Sorry, but you’re not off the hook. Talking about sexuality is a lifelong conversation, beginning with naming body parts and learning where babies come from, and graduating to having healthy relationships, boundaries, keeping free of unwanted pregnancies and disease, and more.

Perhaps you’ve been meaning to have these talks, really you have. It’s just that work and soccer and homework and the flu and carpool and back to school night and everything is just eating up all your time.  Lucky you! Now’s your chance. A whole month dedicated to you having some conversations with your child or teen about sexuality. No more excuses.

Here are some ideas for conversations you can have:

• Discuss a magazine picture you see. They are all airbrushed and modified. Talk about body image, what society says is beautiful, and what your definition of beauty is. Let your child know you think he or she is beautiful just the way they are.

• See a show on TV that reinforces gender stereotypes? Have a discussion about the ways people live outside of strict stereotypes: boys who like purple and are artistic, girls who are athletic and scientific, women who are firefighters and police officers, and men who are nurses and teachers.

• Look up some of the ads on the Internet about the freedom to marry in our state and discuss them with your child or teen. Listen to some music about it, like Macklemore’s “Same Love.” Watch the short film about this song, too, and discuss it.

• When choosing a Halloween costume, steer clear of costumes that overly sexualize young girls and boys. Set some limits and talk about them with your child.

• Talk about what a healthy friendship or relationship encompasses: sharing decisions, keeping other friends, and doing things both people like to do.

• Talk about red flags for an unhealthy friendship or relationship: when someone feels criticized or put down a lot, isolated, or when there are more bad times in the relationship than good.

• Review body safety with young children, defining private zones. For older youth and teens, remind them that their body is theirs, and they get to decide how and when to share it. Encourage them not to be pressured into doing anything they are not comfortable with or ready for.

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

By all means, if you haven’t talked to your elementary-aged child about how babies are made, now is the time. And if you haven’t talked to your child about puberty before they reach age 10, now is the time.

If you have a child in middle school this year, be sure to go over the definitions of things like intercourse, oral sex, contraception, and sexual orientation. They are going to hear about it, and it’s so much better if they hear first from a parent or trusted adult.

This month, take a few minutes each day to have a short conversation about one of these topics. Not only will it get less scary the more you do it, but you will set the tone for a lifetime of education and communication in your family.

 

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