Let’s face it, growing up most of us had to answer our sex questions by scouring the internet or relying on older siblings’ and peers’ sometimes questionable expertise. If you were lucky enough to have parents that gave you the “sex talk”, it was probably laced with awkwardness and a needing to tune out what information you were being given.
Not only that, but the idea that a “sex talk” has to be this big momentous occasion at the peak of puberty emphasizes the already taboo nature of one of the most common aspects of being human.
We’re here to offer an alternative to this outdated practice. So feel free to comb over these ideas, taking what resonates with you, and reshaping how we approach sex education with younger generations. Whether you take this as healing practice for your teen self, as practical information for your present or future kids, or to share with family and friends who have kids of their own – this is for everyone.
Start Em’ Young
Moving away from this idea of having a coming of age sex talk, means learning how to integrate sexual education into everyday conversations. Instead of shying away from it or using euphemisms, be developmentally appropriate, yet candid about this very normal part of being human.
One way to do this is by talking about reproductive organs openly when discussing anatomy. This can be done with babies and toddlers. Imagine you’re singing “head shoulders knees and toes”, and adding in penis or vagina to the song. Simple as that. There you are normalizing sexual education!
Not Just The Birds and The Bees
Sexual education isn’t just about learning the ins and outs of sex. Couldn’t resist that Dad joke.
Other crucial topics to integrate into your children’s learning experience are understanding consent – teaching young children to ask permission before touching people’s bodies, and that they can say no to other people touching them. Try normalizing ideas around reproductive health including vaginal care and imbalances, STIs, as well as pregnancy and its many outcomes.
Approaching sexual education with a holistic lens helps your children see how it integrates into every part of being human, which helps to normalize sex even further.
Check Your Biases
This is so difficult because, for the most part, we don’t know where our blinds spots are until we know. You can start to break these down by asking yourself some questions.
- What misconceptions did I carry with me about sex as a child/teen/young adult?
- What do I wish I was taught about sex from a young age?
- What could my parents have done differently to help support my sexual education journey?
Doing the work to check your own biases and blocks, will help break the cycle from spreading them to your kids.
You Won’t Have All The Answers
The knowledge that you have to share with your children is limited by your experience. While this can be a tough pill to swallow, it can be a humbling experience to admit this to both your child and yourself.
When it comes to reproductive health, the world of gender and sexual expression is endless, and chances are – you haven’t experienced it all. Your child doesn’t expect you to understand the many nuances of what it means to be a sexually active human, but they do want you to hear them out and be open to their experiences and questions.
By acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers, it leaves room for you to reach out to community members who might be able to relate to your child in certain ways, and for you to help guide them in finding resources that they can relate to.
This is especially important for kids who are LGBTQ+, where having parental support can make a world of a difference in helping these kids thrive, not just survive.
Drop The Judgements
After you realize that you don’t have all the answers, but are more than willing to help your child find resources, it’s time to examine where you hold judgments against questions they ask or ways they identify.
The way these judgments come up can be so subtle, but to a young teen who is just learning how to express themselves sexually, your reaction to their questions can stick with them for life. Judgemental responses can manifest as eye rolls, snickers, or outright condescending remarks.
Even if this wasn’t the intention, your kids can pick up on the slightest bit of malice, and it may prevent them from asking questions in the future.
Try to meet these conversations and questions with an open heart and open mind. You would want the same. Checking your own judgments can also mean showing your kids how to openly accept other people’s sexual experiences without judgment as well.
Sexual education can be a weird well of confusion, but the more accustomed you get to discussing it with your children, the easier it gets – for them and you. Taking an open approach helps to create more sexually empowered people who are less likely to perpetrate or accept abuse, creating a healthier society overall.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.