It doesn't matter how many times you have talked about sex with peers or students, when it comes to talking to your own child about it, something is different. In a previous post, I highlighted why and when to talk to your child about sex. Now I'd like to turn to how to have the conversation.
Over the years, I have had so many different discussions on this topic. A high school girl once told me she had been raped, and asked me to tell her parents for her. A young man as a sophomore in college sat in tears telling me he was addicted to pornography and masturbation. A man in his mid-twenties sat on my front porch the week before he got married, asking me all sorts of detailed questions on sex, since all he had heard was rumors over the years.
I like to tell stories. When I speak to large groups, I think stories help people visualize the truth I am presenting. Each night, I tell my kids a story while in bed. Think of talking to your kids about sex the same way; as a story.
To help me tell this story, I enlisted the help of a series of books. It is the God's Design for Sex series. I think there are 4 books in this series, by two different authors. The first book is for ages 3-5, the second book is for ages 5-8, the third is for ages 8-10, and the last is for ages 11-14. A couple of points about this conversation:
- Just do it. If your children are young, this conversation is far more awkward for you than it is for them. For whatever reason, as we start talking about genitalia, we become babbling idiots. What makes it even better is when we make up clever little words to substitute for the real thing.
If your kids are in day care, or school (public or private) they are learning about this. Better yet, if you ever listen to the radio or have the TV on - especially with commercials - they are learning about this. Don't be silent on this topic.
- Step up, men. I was reminded about this as I read the reviews on these books. Men are alarmingly absent. Many kids are being overly-mothered and underly-fathered. Fathers, I encourage you to have these conversations with your kids.
Now as far as the actual conversations go, here are a few things I would point out:
1. Don't just buy these books and give them to your kids. I'm really trying to think of anything else in life that we would buy a book for our kids and expect them to come away with a grasp of the material. Yet as many people say, they bought a book like the ones I mentioned and then give them to their kids, hoping sex will all make sense once they read. Sit down, and discuss it.
2. Use the book as a framework. If you read the reviews on these books, many people were unsettled about the age range listed for each book. The age range was fine with me, because I read the books ahead of time, and decided what would be good for my son.
Remember, our kids aren't all the same, so it would be difficult to write a how-to manual targeted at ALL kids a certain age. My oldest son is 5, and we went through the 2nd book, designed for kids age 5-8. Yes, there were some rather descriptive areas in the book, but if I felt like it was too graphic for where he is, I just skipped that section.
Overall, I would rather err on being too direct, detailed or explicit. The more obscure or figurative I am speaking, the less potent the information will be.
3. Be aware; it will get uncomfortable. When I was talking to my son, there was a part of the story when it talked about the penis getting hard. I asked my son if that ever happened to him. He didn't understand. So I held out my index finger really straight, and asked if his penis ever felt like this. (He even tried to bend my finger with his hand.) Once he got the concept, he smiled and said, "oh, yeah, that has happened."
I think it was at this point in the conversation that I felt warm sweat droplets on my forehead.
4. Don't force information. I could tell my son was with me a little, and then not with me. This went back and forth. When I finally asked if he had any questions, he asked if we could go get a Big Red. He was done. Just another conversation with dad. No big deal. I gladly brought him to the store and grabbed a drink with him.
Watch your kids as you talk. If they look confused, try to pry a little. If not, keep moving. Don't force it. Let the conversation be a good memory for your child. If we bore them with information, we will discourage them from coming back to us in the future.
What about bad advice. What are some examples of what NOT to do when talking to your child about sex?
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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