It’s pretty strange that Americans keep the awkward machine going when it comes to talking about sex. We say we believe in good education and we want our children to know about history, math, science, literature, how the government works, and so many other topics. There is little fear that children will take that knowledge of the war for independence and go out and actually start a war.
Parents fully support gun safety, yet few parents think that helping their child learn how to lawfully and safely use a gun will result in them going out and using it to stick up a bank or to shoot another person, right? So why is it when it comes to educating our children about human sexuality, the fears become so many and so big?
Parents think their children will go out and experiment if they have more knowledge (they do that without education and with more serious consequences). They are afraid they will lose their innocence, that someone will hurt them, that their reputations will be ruined, and a big fear, that they will be seen as a bad parent for their child’s behavior.
Here is the truth that parents know themselves from their own growing up – sex education is already going on with children through everyone they meet. They have experiences that shape their attitudes and beliefs that parents aren’t even aware of. Parents themselves have been giving them aspects of sex education without really thinking that’s what it is: as they begin to understand what gender means, as they learn proper hygiene, as they are told what good and bad touch is, and as they explore their own bodies.
And kids don’t wait until they are going into puberty to be curious, yet parents often fall back on putting off any actual talks about sex until the child asks (if they ever do). They think that the child’s curiosity is spurred by hormones and is not simply a part of how we are human. There is a belief that kids will all spontaneously know how to love, how to take no for an answer, how to take responsibility for one’s reproductive health, how to feel good about their growing and changing bodies.
Parents convince themselves that there kids will feel awkward and not want to hear anything from them. They think they can ask their kids what they know and then ‘fill in the blanks’. They are afraid they won’t know the answers and they worry that their children will ask them about their own experiences. What if they ask me a question in public or at a family gathering? How will others judge me if I educate my children?
Parents, here’s the truth. From an early age, your kids want you to be their primary sex educator. They can handle being embarrassed if they know you are there for them and are even willing to say when you don’t know about a topic. They may be curious about your experiences, but they also will respect your boundaries if you can tell them that some things are simply private and that you choose not to share that information with them. They see you model boundaries and how you can handle the tough stuff. Now all you have to do is get ready!