Sexuality is a wide-ranging topic. From prepping your growing children on puberty to having a discussion on gender, there are many topics that you can initiate to help healthy sex education at home.
If you have not already done so, the tween years are a great time to talk about sex. If you leave it till later, it may mean that someone else could become the expert figure on sex in your child’s mind. You also won’t be able to verify if the information is accurate or if their source is trustworthy.
Think of the talk about sex as being like a pizza base. You may be surprised to know that most of us have already introduced the topic of sex and sexuality to our children at a very young age - the moment we taught them about their unique bodies and body parts!
Other ingredients can be added on afterwards, depending on your child’s maturity, but you need to start with that all-important pizza base first!
Some possible ways of describing sex include, "An act of intimacy between a husband and wife” or "when a husband’s penis fits together with his wife’s vagina, much like two puzzle pieces fitting together.”
If you have already explained the basics of sex, you have paved the way for further conversations. Establish early this healthy attitude towards talking about sex and sexuality.
It is important to have both Dad and Mum be involved in these talks. If only Mum talks about sex, the kids may miss out on the father’s perspective, which can be slightly different. Or they may grow up to think that it’s normal for fathers not to talk about sexuality. When both parents intentionally get involved in talking about sexuality, children gain a more holistic perspective.
Parents are the single largest influence on their teens about sex so don’t assume you can stop broaching the subject now!
It can be hard to balance the fear of sharing too much information with being too banal with generic topics. How do you know how much to share? What if you are overwhelming your teen? A way to tackle this is to let them take the lead. Learn to help direct the talk by asking open-ended questions.
A lot of the curiosity about sex stems from the fact that it’s unknown territory. By talking about it openly, regularly, and factually, you are in effect removing some of the mystery surrounding sex. There will be an initial awkwardness as you take the first step, but with practice, things usually get better.
Look for teachable moments in media to strike up conversations. Using an example from a fictional show is less confronting and personal. You might say something like, “Wow, they just met and they are going to have sex” and ask for his or her thoughts on the way relationships are modelled on screen.
To a teen, love and sex may seem interchangeable based on the shows they are exposed to. Help them develop their own values by asking thinking questions: “What if a boyfriend or girlfriend wants to have sex but the other actually doesn’t? Does loving someone mean you have to give them what they want? How do you express how you feel if you are uncomfortable and how do you make sure you respect and listen well?”
Helping our children learn to develop their own voice while respecting other people’s voices is also part of developing a healthy attitude towards sexuality.
Give space to your teen to process their thoughts and opinions by acknowledging what they are saying, asking questions without judgement and affirming their willingness to open up.
Keep up with the hugs and kisses at home – both with your spouse and also with your kids. Everyone needs physical affection and a home full of healthy physical touch helps our kids experience touch from safe persons and also demonstrates how they can give healthy touches to people they love.
Demonstrating non-sexual touch with your spouse actually also shows your kids how a married couple can be together for so many years and still be in love.
Do you and your spouse still enjoy a loving relationship? Do you go out on dates, have fun together and hold hands or kiss in front of your kids?
Does Dad help Mum with the heavy lifting and Mum sometimes give Dad shoulder massages when he’s tired?
If you don’t do these things and feel really awkward doing so now, maybe just start small with acts of service or gifts if that is your partner’s love language.
Help your kids see the benefits of being in a committed relationship.
Along with open talks, you can keep guiding them to ask and answer thinking questions to develop their convictions on sexual boundaries, sexting and sexual compatibility.
Now that they are older, you can also share your experience of your own teen years with dating and your journey towards marriage. Being open with mistakes and sharing the hard lessons you’ve learnt can be very powerful moments of connection and also models vulnerability.
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