Sex-Positive Parenting: How and Why you Should Talk to Your Kids About Sexuality

Ideas and resources to help you make the conversations more impactful and less cringe-worthy.

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Planned Parenthood says that talking with teens about a wide range of sexual health topics makes it more likely that they will use condoms and birth control when they do become sexually active.

Setting up that sort of open dialogue starts long before the teen years.

Our seventeen-year-old daughter talks with us about her sex life regularly. We know who she’s interested in, who she thinks is attractive, and who she’s gotten physical with. Sometimes this much information makes parents cringe, and, truthfully, sometimes my husband and I have to take a deep breath and calm ourselves after one of these conversations. Even though these topics are sometimes difficult to hear, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Here are some ways we ensure a sex-positive environment and open communication.

Understand how you feel about sex.

Many teens adopt attitudes about sex that are similar to those of their parents. It’s important that if you have lived with unhealthy attitudes about sex and sexuality that you address those rather than passing them on to your children.

If your family believes that an abstinence approach is the only option, you need to be clear about how you pass that along. It’s important to remember that even though you pass your values along to your children, they may choose a different path. it’s important to arm them with the correct information about birth control and barrier methods so that they can make their own informed decisions.

Learn how their peer group thinks about sexuality, and what pressures exist.

As a teenager, my boyfriend told me that women could only get pregnant if they had an orgasm. He heard it from his friends, so it must have been true. My stupid 16-year-old self believed him. Imagine the world of trouble he and I could have gotten in with that line of thinking!

Your goal as a parent is to give your children the correct information they need to make rational, informed decisions about what sexual activity they are ready for.

Knowing the pressures your kids face regarding sex and sexuality among their peers can help you eliminate potential problems before they get too large, and provide your child with resources to avoid peer pressure and incorrect information. If they don’t get the information from you, they will find it somewhere.

When my daughter asked me during her freshman year of high school what a blow job was, the first thing I did was ask what her friends were saying that made her ask that question. Once I understood the misinformation she had, I could correct it and arm her with knowledge.

Our sexuality conversations are deliberately nongendered. We talk about love and sex as something that happens between two people. Our children know that love is love. It is our goal to make our family a safe place for them, even if they aren’t heterosexual.

Find resources to help you out with the more difficult topics.

Amaze has animated videos on a variety of sexual health topics. They cover everything from puberty to issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. These videos can be a way to inform your child about things they are curious about, or as a conversation starter.

There are many books about sexual health. When our then 11-year-old daughter had questions about her body, and the changes she was experiencing we left a copy of It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up Sex, and Sexual Health in our living room. Within a day she had picked it up and snuck it off to her bedroom.

My current favorite book for kids and parents is Drawn to Sex: The Basics. This illustrated guide will give you and your kids a clear understanding of sex and sexuality and will eliminate ambiguity. It is set up as a graphic novel and is engaging for kids who are curious about sexual health.

I love the book Consent: The New Rules of Sex Education: Every Teen’s Guide to Healthy Sexual Relationships for helping both young boys and girls navigate the difficult conversations they will no doubt be having with their sexual partners.

The Sex Education Answer Book is a great resource for parents looking for ways to answer the questions children ask about sex and sexuality. It is organized by age so that you can answer questions about sex whether they come from your three-year-old or your 13-year-old.

Keep the conversations short, low pressure, and ongoing.

I remember talking to my parents about sex as being uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing. Abstinence was expected, and they just pretended that masturbation didn’t exist.

We talk about sexuality as a matter of course in our home. Sometimes it’s just a casual comment thrown out while doing the dinner dishes, and other times it’s a more serious conversation sparked by a question from one of the kids. Sometimes, it’s a bad dad-joke that has our kids rolling their eyes.

My favorite time to talk with the kids about difficult topics is in the car. Removing the need for eye contact and face to face interaction can help kids get over the discomfort of talking with their parents about their sexual development.

My husband and our 20-year-old often listen to the Savage Lovecast and pause to discuss questions that come up during the program. This is entertaining for them both but also provides an opportunity to discuss the intricacies of adult relationships.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your kids.

Did you struggle with sexuality when you were young? Did you have questions that you didn’t know how to ask? Did you carry around misinformation? Were you afraid of sex and the way your body was changing?

Share those experiences with your children. I only recently told my teenage daughter, who considers herself bisexual and often struggles with that the story of struggling with my bisexuality, and how I often chose to ignore it to be as straight as possible. Life is easier when you are straight.

Our kids know that I was once dumped via a post-it note on my locker and that my husband accidentally lit his first girlfriend’s hair on fire. These stories certainly get some laughs around the dinner table, but that isn’t the point of sharing them. Letting our kids know that we experienced the same awkwardness they do helps to reassure them that it is all a normal part of the process.

We are a resource when our daughter wonders whether it is normal to masturbate every day, and how to get birth control. Our open, sex-positive conversations have helped her to develop a healthy relationship with her own sexuality.

Discuss Consent, often and explicitly.

Consent is a hot-button topic right now, and for good reason. I’ve shared my experiences with sexual assault with our children when they were old enough to understand it.

I didn’t share my experience to scare them, but so that they know the dangers are real. Our daughter knows that she needs to limit alcohol consumption when she’s at a college party, and our son knows that explicit and enthusiastic consent is necessary before any physical contact occurs.

The best part of all this sex-positive talk? When our daughter ran into a situation on a date that made her uncomfortable, she left. Her boundaries are healthy and strong, and she knows we will back her up.

Talk to your kids, be vulnerable, open, and keep it light. We need to make sure our kids are getting correct information from trusted sources.

Writer | Coach | Educator | Social Change | Mental Health https://www.mariafchapman.com/ https://linktr.ee/mariafchapman

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