Do you remember when your parents had “the talk” with you?
I don’t, because mine never did. This is what I remember. I must have been in sixth grade, perhaps older when one day in boredom I started looking through some of the books on the bookshelf. One in particular caught my attention. It was white, small and it seemed to have been placed there just for me to find it. I opened the little book and what I saw took me by complete surprise: drawings of the reproductive system, both male and female, simple and straightforward explanations and a number of details that my young mind wasn’t ready to process. I quickly put the book back on the shelf as if it had been on fire. Evidently my mom had bought the book with the intention of educating herself and sharing with me, but she never got around to it. Overtime I came back to the little book many times, in secret, in hiding, making sense of the information on my own and internalizing the belief that there must have been something dirty or wrong with anything related to sex.
When the time came for me to be the parent I did a little bit better than my mom, but definitely not enough to satisfy my standards today. I talked a lot to my own son and daughter, about their bodies, their health, puberty, sex, babies and everything else. However, I cannot say that I had a frank, honest conversation with either one of them. Most of our talks took place in the car, me driving, them looking through the window.
I am hoping that you will do much better than my mother and I did. The question that won the contest was: when is a good time to start talking to your children about puberty? Most experts suggest that 8 years is the right age, since the child is mature enough to conceptualize the information but has not yet become cynical about his parent’s opinions.
I think we should start much earlier than that. Because we are sexual beings everything we say or do is part of the sex education we give to our children.
These are some thoughts on the subject that I would like to share:
- Always use the proper name for body parts when talking with your children.
- Never label their genitals or normal behavior such as masturbation as bad or dirty.
- Never make fun of any part of the body.
- Learn about normal pubertal development before you try to explain it to your child.
- Explore your own personal history and sexuality issues before you address sensitive questions with your children.
- Remember that children do what they see their parents do, not what their parents say to do. Keep your relationships respectful, honest and healthy and they will do the same.
In times when children are bombarded with images full of sexual content, it is best to raise them with a clear, clean and healthy image of their body and the assurance that they can come to you for answers to their thorny questions. Good luck!