[Dash of SAS] Talking sex to kids

Ana P. Santos
Coming from a generation where my parents did not even talk to me about sex, when I first became a parent myself, I originally thought that I would set aside a date when I would talk to my child about sex

My daughter was 3 when I first had a “sex talk” with her.

At the time, my gay best friend was in a serious relationship and I was spending a considerable amount of time with the new couple. As a consequence, I must have talked to her a lot about Ninong and his boyfriend as my constant male companions.

One day, when I told her about my plans to go out with Ninong and his boyfriend, she asked, “Di ba Ninong is bading?” [Isn’t Ninong gay?”]

Then she giggled.

I don’t remember where she picked up the word bading but I was more concerned about why she laughed. I was afraid that in the near future, that innocent giggle would turn into a nasty snicker. 

So I sat her down and explained to her in the simplest way possible that yes, Ninong was gay, which meant that he was a man in love with another man.

I also told her that she could ask me anytime she was unsure about grown up things. I told her I couldn’t promise to answer all her questions all the time, but I could promise to always be honest.

In her simple toddler ways, she just nodded and went back to play.

Needless to say, my friends were appalled. What was I thinking talking to a toddler about the concept of homosexuality?  Did I think it was a good idea to introduce her to those things at such a young age?

Yes, of course, I replied. When else was I going to tell her about this? I thought it was the best for me to talk about it before she came to learn about hate and discrimination and other people’s judgment clouded her own.

(Besides, at the time, my only male companions were gay men. I thought it was important to explain to her why there were so many men in Mommy’s life, but they were more interested in giving her a make over, than getting involved with her romantically.)

So yes, before any one else could tell her otherwise, I wanted to set the record straight for her.

That first “sex talk” also made me realize one very important thing: the “sex talk” isn’t just about sex. It isn’t about positions or what body part goes where. It is also about various topics on sexuality like sexual orientation, the simple biology of how body parts work and develop, and respect for the sexual choices of others.

In this blog entry, “What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex” on The Good Men Project, writer Jayson Gaddis writes, “To not teach children about the sacredness of their bodies and their sexuality is one of the CORE abandonments of our time.”

Which is also what the “sex talk” is about: it’s about teaching kids the sacredness of their bodies, it’s an avenue to talk about values such as self-worth and body image. It provides a context for discussing the elements of a healthy relationship like mutual respect and consent. It opens the door on the discussion of boundary-setting, risks and consequences.

Lifelong conversation

If it sounds like a mouthful, that’s because it is. It’s a lot to be squeezed into one sit-down.

Coming from a generation where my parents did not even talk to me about sex, when I first became a parent myself, I originally thought that I would set aside a date when I would talk to my child about sex. That date would be blocked off in my calendar—sometime during her teen years – sit her down and have the talk once and for all.

I was wrong.

She’s now 10 and her one question at age 3 was just the start of what has become an ongoing conversation. And it is a conversation. It’s never just me talking to her, she has questions, I try my best to answer. Sometimes, I ask her questions, too. But mostly, she sets the boundary for the discussion, letting me know one way or another when the discussion becomes uncomfortable.

Once when I started the topic of boy-girl relationships after she asked me something about condoms (she heard about it from her friends), she stopped me, saying, “Ew, ew, ew. Please, Mom, I don’t want to talk about that until I’m 18.”

I agreed, but also told her that she was free to bring up the topic with me again anytime before she turned 18.

Parents’ influence on sexual behavior

There has been a lot of talk about how only parents should be the ones to educate their children about sexuality and how it is a private matter that is best kept to parents and their offspring.

That is true. Parents have been known to be major influencers on their children’s decisions on sexual activity.

But not many parents are comfortable talking to their children about sex, fearing that doing so will be an implicit green light on sexual experimentation and discovery.

Studies have consistently shown that kids who can talk to their parents about sex and sexuality delay sexual activity. These kids are also less likely going to engage in risky sexual behavior when they do become sexually active.

Talking sex with kids gives us practice

You don’t have to corner your toddler into having “The Sex Talk” with you. Their natural curiosity will lead them to asking about their bodies and how it works.

As parents, our main goal should be to refrain from judgment and keep the communication lines open. We should be the ones they trust, rather than the Internet, porn sites or their friends who know just as little as they do.

If your child is older, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start – that goes for the parent and the child.

Like many things in life, the adage “practice makes perfect” also applies to talking openly and comfortably about positive sexuality with our children. – Rappler.com

 

From starting out as a sex and relationship columnist in a men’s magazine, Ana has moved on (or grown up) to be an award-winning public health journalist. Her series of reports on HIV and AIDS published in Newsbreak was named Runner Up for Best Investigative Report in the 2011 PopDev Media Awards. However, Ana considers being able to tell her mother that she has made a career for herself in sex, without engaging in (commercial) porn her greatest achievement.

Read more of her work on www.sexandsensibilities.com (SAS) or follow her on @dash_of_sas.

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