STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT HAVING THE SEX TALK WITH YOUR KID!
We recently attended a Parent’s Evening at our son’s school, and the topic this time was “How to chat with your kids about S E X“. As the Educator rightly put it, this is a topic that has many parent’s hearts palpitating out of control.
As she went on to explain, there’s actually no reason to be anxious about it.
Her message was clear. Be honest when you’re chatting to your kids about sex, and as with everything else … be real with your responses. You need to realise that if your kids don’t learn about sex from you, which is the ideal scenario, then they will learn about it from other kids, which is very often a distorted and potentially manipulated viewpoint.
It can so easily happen at school where it is uncontrolled and might even be initiated by older, more mature students with malicious and selfish intentions, most often in the playground. Yes, I was shocked to hear that kids in early primary school were playing a game called “Sexy Sexy”, basically where they dry hump each other in the playground. I was appalled, to put it mildly and listening to all the ‘OMG’ reactions around me, I wasn’t the only parent surprised by this revelation.
So as a parent what can you do?
You can start by addressing the ‘sex’ topic with your kids, the earlier the better. It’s never “too soon” and they are never “too young”! You want your child to feel comfortable to speak to you about sex, not as a parent but as a friend. Sex Talk needs to be ongoing and not once-off, all the way to pre-adults and remember to let your kids guide you without making them feel uncomfortable or embarassed. Remember that you will be responding according to your child’s age, in other words, you will be answering with just enough information so that their curiosity is satisfied. Be open about discussing sex at home so that your child is comfortable enough to speak to you about it. Again, you want to be your child’s go-to person when they have questions about sex.
Empower your child about sex, so they learn to make better decisions about it.
KIDS UNDER 5
Kids are naturally curious about their own bodies and if you have a boy child I’m quite sure they will often be found touching their genitals in the bathtub or during diaper changes or running around holding their penises. If you listen to 947’s Breakfast Show, you would have recently heard Anele Mdoda mention her son and his new found fascination with his penis. Another fact is that boys have regular involuntary erections. Accept it parents! At this play-school/pre-school age, kids have no sense of privacy and you will find them playing with their private parts. It. Is. Normal. Teach them that although it may feel good when they do it, it should be something they do at home. No need to shame them while teaching them. The message you want your child to get is that masturbation is healthy and normal, but something that should be done in the privacy and safety of their own space at home. Use bath time to teach your child about their body parts, using the correct names for their genitals (penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, anus). This way they have no overwhelming shame or shyness around that part of the body. Remember how you used to giggle growing up when the word penis was mentioned, in some instances even now as adults some still cringe at the word vagina being mentioned so publicly.
At this stage, it’s important to let your kids know that they are free to touch their own private parts in private, and a great opportunity to teach them that it’s not ok for anyone else to touch it or to want to see it. These parts are private because they belong to them and NO ONE ELSE! Not even if they ask you to, it’s a NO! Teach your child that the only people who can touch them are their parents when they are washing them or the doctor for medical reasons. When your child is old enough to clean themselves, there’s also no need for you as a parent to be helping them.
KIDS BETWEEN 6 & 9
In this age group, kids become a little more curious about life. You may get the “Where do babies come from?” or “What’s sex?” questions. Make sure that your response is simple, honest and easy for them to understand. Here’s a response example “Sex is when an adult man puts his penis in the adult woman’s vagina.” Let your child’s natural curiosity guide you on the subject. Answer just what is being asked. Or when your eight-year-old asks you “What’s a blow job?”, after you’ve gotten over the fact that they have even heard the term and successfully resisted the urge to run for cover, take a deep breath and answer as matter-of-factly as you would if you were talking to them about the difference between planets and stars. “Oral sex is when two grown-ups are making love and they put their mouths to each other’s genitals.” If you’re caught completely off guard and aren’t sure of the answer, promise your child you’ll get back to them …. and do make the effort to get back to them with an answer as soon as possible or they will look for it elsewhere.
Also, don’t change the channel if something sexual comes up, it is a great opportunity to teach if your child asks a question. Yeah, until now my instinct had been to swiftly change the channel to avoid any awkwardness.
If your child doesn’t ask you anything about sex, a good way to start a conversation is to read an illustrated children’s book together about reproduction or leave it lying around on the coffee table until they decide to page through it and ask questions. So, yeah, you’re not off the hook entirely if your child doesn’t prompt the subject!
KIDS BETWEEN 9 & 12
When your kids reach age 9 you bring out the big guns. Sit them down when sex comes up and start the STD lessons by showing them a picture of what a penis with herpes looks like or any of the other STDs. At this age your child may assume they know all there is to know about sex, potentially using sexual references but if you dig deeper you may find they don’t really understand what they are saying. Puberty is starting a lot sooner these days so as your child begins going through the hormonal changes caused by puberty, they may have loads of questions about their changing bodies and emotions. It’s important for you as the parent to reassure them that all the physical changes they are experiencing like acne, wet dreams, breast budding, menstruation, growth spurts, body hair etc. are perfectly normal. Let them know that all their friends will go through it too, just not necessarily at the same time as them.
It’s also during this phase of their life, that you should bring up the physical and emotional risks of becoming sexually active too soon. Yes, the possibility is there, please don’t think it can’t happen to your child, that’s really naive. As they experience these changes to their body, it’s important that you make them aware that they CAN get pregnant or make someone pregnant the first time they have sex. Our kids need to appreciate that oral sex can’t get you pregnant but you can contract a serious STD.
KIDS BETWEEN 13 & 18
It’s the teens and your kid’s hormones are in overdrive!
There may be pressure to have sexual intercourse, whether or not they feel ready. They could be playing a game called “Rainbow Kissing” putting them under serious exposure to STDs. I had heard the term “Rainbow” kissing when I watched the movie “KIDS” that was released back in 1995. The unvarnished truth of what it’s like to be a teenager in the city and how exposed kids are to STDs, specifically HIV. For those that may not be familiar with the term, it’s a sex game played by pre-teens and teenagers. Basically, the idea is to see how many blowjobs, yes you read it right, a boy gets before the end of the party. This is measured by how many different coloured lipstick marks the boy has on his penis.
It’s happening right here in this city!
Be there for your teenagers even though they may behave like they don’t need your support and guidance. It may be awkward, get over it and chat with your kids about sex! It is extremely important that teenagers appreciate that what they see on the telly or social media is NOT real! Our kids need to understand that no one has the right to pressurise them into being sexual. If there’s going to be sex, it has to be under MUTUAL consent. This way you’re also teaching your kid that sex is not only about the physical and the STDs, but that it’s also about feelings and relationships.
Fact, in South Africa, a girl is able to get birth control pills from as young as 12 years, without parental consent! So don’t be shy, discuss birth control with your teen. Educate your teen on how to use it and where to get it. Another fact, is that your 12 year old can also get an abortion without parental consent. Technically, a teenage child under 16 can fall pregnant and have an abortion without the parents ever knowing about it.
Let that sink in…. then accept the fact that your teen is the one who is going to be making the big decisions as far as their own sexuality is concerned. You can no longer control and dictate their actions, as much as you might want to or believe you can.
As a parent, all you can do is help your child learn to take responsibility for their actions and empower them with information to make sound decisions.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS ON SEX
If you’re keen on some books to assist you when speaking to your preschooler about sex, here are a few:
Have you spoken to your kids about sex?