How to be a Sex-Positive Parent: Studio 5
Even the most confident of parents often feel uncomfortable with the prospect of talking to their children about sex. Most understand that if we fail to talk about it, they will learn about it from media and peers, and that it is our responsibility to do so to ensure that they have accurate information.But still, it’s not an easy conversation to have! And even for those who are brave enough to do so, how can we best help our kids not only know the facts, but also have a healthy attitude toward their bodies and understand sex in a way that will benefit them? Here are 5 ways to be a sex-positive parent:
1) Realize It Begins At Birth
Many parents wonder what is the appropriate age to begin talking about sex. But the truth is that positive attitudes about bodies and sexuality begin from the very beginning. When children are young, don’t be afraid to verbally celebrate and affirm the importance of their bodies. Even during toilet training, take the opportunity to help them notice how wonderful and useful their bodies can be. Kids absorb the messages you send in your tone of your voice and by how you respond to their actions.
2) Make it an Unfolding Conversation (Not a One-Time Event)
As kids grow older and are need of an expanded vocabulary and education surrounding sex, some treat “the birds and the bees” talk as a grand affair that happens one time. But a better approach is to make it a continuous discussion, not a one-time event. Lay the foundation early on with conversations about bodies, puberty, sexual feelings, etc. For example, when a child is young, teach him/her the correct anatomical terms for genitalia and talk about differences and similarities in relation to your own body.
3) Increase Your Comfort Level
Because of the sensitive nature of the topic and also because we were raised in a different generation, many adults still feel awkward talking about sexuality and body parts in particular. But just begin to practice communicating these terms and ideas. Talk with your spouse or partner. Identify and learn more about your own sexuality. By doing so, you’ll be able to help children understand more about theirs.
4) Refrain from Shaming & Overreacting
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to this topic is shaming and overreacting. For example, if you’re in public and your son has his hands down his pants, it’s easy to bark at him to stop by making him feel embarrassed or like he’s done something wrong. But resist the temptation to make it seem gross or dirty, and instead respond calmly by distracting him with a toy and telling him that’s not appropriate to do. Avoid shaming your child into thinking sex is inherently bad.
5) Address “Why,” Not Just “What”
While it’s important to be open and honest about sex, providing a context for it can help your child understand the why. For example, saying something like, “this is a special gift you’ll be able to experience with someone you love” can instill in them an understanding of the purpose of sex. Be sure to help them learn respect for how sacred of an expression it is.
Click here for a list of resources to help with sex-positive parenting.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.