A few weeks ago I posted a question for the parents on my page about talking to kids about sex. I asked what age they thought was the right age to start and I was sad to see that many parents thought that 15 was an appropriate age.
I know that we would all love for our children to become sexually aware from the age of 15 years old but let’s get real here…. by the time your child has reached 15 years old he or she has already past puberty and is I am sure already fully aware of what sex is. The problem here is that it has not been learned from you, it has come from another source which may be dubious.
Your child may already be fully sexually active and not know everything that he or she should know to keep himself or herself safe, physically as well as emotionally.
To any parent that thinks that 15 is a good age to start talking to kids about sex, I am concerned and I want to share my thoughts and experiences with you. I’ve teamed up with my good friend and counselor, Freddy van Rensburg, for a live session on my Facebook page to openly and honestly discuss the topic of talking to kids about sex.
Play the video at the top of this post to watch it.
My Personal Experience As A Child and Teen
As a young girl I remember listening to a record about sex education that my parents bought us. My younger sister and I used to listen to the one song in hysterics. I can’t remember the whole song, except for one line that went “you touch your own body, let me touch mine”.
Other than that I honestly can’t really remember having a discussion about sex with my parents. I do remember that there was a lot of embarrassment around the topic of sex.
When I went from a small primary school to a larger high school I was quite innocent. I did know what sex was but I was not very worldly on the topic.
When I was 12 years old I was very thoroughly humiliated when someone at the school started spreading rumours about me. Rumours that got to my parents. I remember my parents calling me in for a talk and they were so embarrassed, they said that people were talking about me. Apparently I was a slut and I was giving sexual favours at school in return for things.
According to rumour I gave a blow job on the school stage in exchange for a bicycle. My parents asked me about this and all I remember thinking was what on earth is a blow job… and do you see a new bicycle anywhere? And why the school stage of all places?
The next day I asked someone at school what a blow job was and I remember how ashamed I was when I found out.
The rumours kept coming and my parents kept talking to me about them, much to our mutual embarrassment and shame.
When I was 14 years old I had my first kiss followed a few hours later by being raped by the boy I had kissed. When I was 15 years old I was raped again.
Shortly after that I started acting out sexually and my journey into alcoholism, addiction and shame was well on it’s way.
Now I can say from personal experience that addressing sex with a 15 year old is going to be way too late. That ship has probably sailed a long time ago and it could be heading into a storm.
Talking to kids about sex needs to start way earlier than that.
Talking To Kids About Sex
This is not a simple topic, talking to kids about sex needs to be broken up into a number of different areas that need to be addressed. So here are the things that I feel need to be looked at.
Sex and Shame
The reason why I want to get into this topic first is that my personal experience of sex from a very young age was that sex was something to be whispered about, something shameful and embarrassing.
If we convey this shame and embarrassment when we talk about sex with our children chances are good that they are going to feel that sex is something to be embarrassed about.
I feel that it is important to be able to talk openly with our kids without embarrassment which will help them to face the topic of sex, puberty, menstruation and all related topics in a mature way. It will also enable them to ask us questions easily when they want to know something.
Private Parts and Touching
The first thing to discuss with our kids will be private parts and what is appropriate touching and what is not.
I remember when my daughter was two years old and I was changing my newborn son’s nappy. She looked at him and said he has a tail. I said no, he is a boy so he has a penis. We are girls so we have vaginas.
It is important to use the proper names so that they know what the correct term is. As a parent I would love to stick my head in the sand and pretend that molestation does not exist… but sadly it does exist and knowing the correct terminology protects your child. Children who are aware of the correct name for genitals can better disclose to an adult if something is happening that shouldn’t be.
A 1995 study shows that children that had a good knowledge and understanding of their genitals, including the correct terminology were more likely to be avoided by sexual predators.
It is also important to link this back to the point about shame. We don’t create pseudonyms for other body parts and we should not do it for our genitals. We should not be ashamed of any of our body parts and coming up with other names implies that we should keep those parts of our body secret, that it is shameful and embarrassing.
We should however explain to our kids from a young age that some parts are private and should not be touched by anyone else.
It is also important to let our children know that while some parts of our body are not considered private it is their right to say that they don’t like being touched somewhere or in a certain way.
My son for example just loves hugs, kisses and cuddles. My daughter on the other hand has said she does not like to be kissed or hugged. She needs to know that she can exercise her right not to be kissed and cuddled even though as her mother I would love to.
Talking about genitals and touching is something I have done since my kids were babies. You cannot start too early with this.
Answer Their Questions
Forget about the stork bringing babies.
If your child asks you a question answer it with facts and leave the shame at the door. You don’t have to go into too much detail at a young age but answer your child’s question directly and simply.
If your child asks another question that asks for more detail give them the right answer.
Talking about puberty is part of talking about sex. The changes that your child is going to go through are going to be confusing, scary and possibly embarrassing for your child.
It is important that your child knows ahead of time what is going to be happening to her or his body and why.
It is within the normal range for girls to start menstruating any time between the age of 9 and 16 years old, with some girls starting their period long before that.
To make sure that your child is educated about puberty before it hits your child should know what to expect such as public hair, armpit hair, breasts forming, menstruation, testicles and penis enlarging, voice breaking, wet dreams, raging hormones and acne.
Talking To Kids About Sex
I personally believe that along with a child understanding what changes will happen in his or her body they should know why. The body is preparing for procreation – and yes that means sex.
I personally believe that when you discuss puberty with your child you should also ensure that your child understands about sex. How it all physically works as well as being emotionally mature enough for sex.
Things that need to be covered are respect, emotions, sexual abuse, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and relationships.
Talking About Sex Is Not Grooming Your Child For Sex
I have spoken to a lot of parents that feel that talking to their child about sex may make their child go ahead and have sex. This makes no sense to me.
I wish that I had been better prepared for sex, rape, sexual abuse and all the things that came along for me. I wish that I had trusted my parents more and not been embarrassed to talk about sex.
I do not want my children to be sexually active from a young age, but I do want to fully prepare them for what they might encounter in their lives. I want my children to be mature about sex and make the right decisions. To protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, from unplanned pregnancy and from emotional turmoil.
Above all I want my children to be able to talk to me so that I can help them along this tricky journey and that starts with me opening the conversation.
What are your thoughts on talking to kids about sex?