Would you like to be an open book for your kids?
Sexuality should never be something we experience shame about. When we give our kids permission to share their thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences - we all benefit.
Many of us learnt about sexuality from our friends, books, a health movie played in the school gym, magazines, or TV. For kids of today not much has changed except... the internet!
Parent's and caregivers play an important role in sexuality education. You are the first educators for your kids in most areas and even when you don't talk about sexuality you are still sending a message. Sadly that message might be that it's shameful or secretive.
Starting talking about sexuality early doesn't mean talking about sex. Those first lessons and conversations are actually an important step in protecting your child from sexual abuse.
If you want to hear more about when is the right time to start talking about sexuality, head over to watch my interview with Mind123.
Sexuality should be joyful, and while it's important to teach kids it's private we should also help them understand that our sexuality is something to be celebrated. Creating an environment where a young person feels supported can have lifelong impacts on their wellbeing.
In today's world, many young people report not learning much or having difficulty getting their questions answered about sexuality from their parents and carers (even though they also report wanting to talk to those people!). For lots of parents and carers, the main fears are saying something wrong or giving the child too much information.
Why is talking with young people about sexuality so difficult?
It doesn't have to be! Download the Teachable Moments Tip Sheet to get started.
It can feel difficult because it might mean starting and continuing conversations that you yourself probably didn't get growing up. Parents often avoid conversations about sexuality for this reason.
While it can feel awkward at first, persevering until you can speak comfortably about these topics has a whole range of long-term benefits for young people including:
clearer communication with doctors
establishing firm boundaries with adults and other kids
delayed sexual activity
a greater ability to negotiate consent and pleasure with partners in later life
There is a saying that goes "If you aren't talking to your kids about sexuality, you are the only one who isn't!".
So who else is talking? Friends, peers, tricky adults, tv, media, advertising, and pornography!
Pornography is everywhere and young people are being exposed at younger and younger ages. When a parent discovers their child has been watching pornography they are often scared and react badly, yelling and banning computers and phones.
Once the anger and fear subside, it's an opportunity to support your child and make sure they have the information they need.
For pre-pubescent children encountering pornography can be deeply upsetting and confusing. Stricter controls need to be placed on the use of technology and usage should be monitored. It is essential to provide the child space to talk about what has happened and to explore with them what information they might need to support a healthier understanding of bodies and relationships.
For older children, puberty is a time of sexual curiosity. Wanting to find out about sex and searching for answers online is normal behaviour. However, encountering pornography which is often violent and degrading can have lasting impacts on the young person. Starting conversations about relationships can be an easier place to start than launching into porn too so use this opportunity to discuss power and gender in media.
You can learn more about pornography over on the blog, I've posted a copy of a talk I gave at a community forum 'The Problem with Porn'.
Ready to start talking? Join the free webinar and find out how!