Children are too young for the s** talk

Myth-busting Monday:  Children are too young for the sex talk.

 

False, with several myths wound up in this one statement.

 

What sex talk are we referring to exactly? Many would assume I mean the PIV1/birds and the bees talk.  Educating children about sexuality is so much more than that.  It is conversations around body autonomy, consent, critically evaluating media, gender norms (and why/how these are limiting), sex vs gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, dating, body functions (like menstruation, lactation, and waste production), self-esteem, healthy relationships, mindfulness and presence in the body, etc.  Limiting the talk to PIV considerations is based on and reinforces heteronormative and narrow assumptions around sexuality.

 

If the child is asking their adult/s about sexuality, they are exhibiting trust in their adult to communicate what is understood and important.  They are also seeing their adult as an important source of information, something that should not be taken for granted when children can and will turn to peers and the media over their adults if their adults are evasive, uncomfortable, or not safe people to have conversations with.  As a responsible caregiver, you want to be their trusted source of information so you can make sure it is accurate and set the greater context for the question.

 

Further, if the child is asking their adult/s about dating, for example, the child is old enough to receive information that challenges implicit heteronormativity.  Perhaps there is a gay man in the family, and a child asks why that man doesn’t have a girlfriend.  If the child is asking about girlfriends, the child can handle information on the man’s orientation (“Uncle Mike doesn’t have a girlfriend, he has a boyfriend”).  Instead, I know families can get embarrassed or avoid this or similar questions when the persons involved fall outside of expected norms, due to internalized or externalized homophobia and heterosexism.  Not communicating about something is communication, modeling and behavior is communication, and children pick up on all of this.  This (lack of) communication is also how norms are policed and “difference” as shameful are all reinforced  – by silencing or avoiding and kicking the issue down the road for the next generation to figure out. And that needs to stop.

 

Having “the s** talk” with children is not a one and done deal.  It is regular conversations; it is normalizing curiosity and being a secure person for young people to approach with their questions; it is modeling safety, respect, and affirmation of bodies, differences, and relationships.

 

Confused on where to even start?  Challenge your own comfort level with these topics and conversations – what is your relationship with your own sexuality?, how aware and affirming are you around the diversity of sexuality?, what was communication like around sexuality in your family of origin?, are these (your relationship and awareness) where you want to be or do you have work to do here?  Please don’t pass limiting assumptions and inherited shame2 around sexuality on to future generations – it’s a tired and BS heirloom.  Ask your young person questions back – if they approach you with a question and you don’t know where it is coming from or what to know what they know first, ask them a question (ex “Oh, that’s an interesting question.  What made you think of that?”) – this can buy you time to collect your own thoughts and comfort as well as put a frame of reference around the question, which helps you form a more appropriate response for them.  That is, this technique helps meet the child where they are.

 

Want to learn more about navigating talks around sexuality with children?, because there is so much to learn and undo.  Join us for our S e x Positive Parenting Group.  We meet once a month, for small group sexuality counseling and explore issues around parenting young people in a sex positive way.  Email me for more information (address is at the bottom of the page).

 

References and Resources

  1. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=piv
  2. An example of how we inherited the story line of shame around sexuality. The shame is centuries old.  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/19/how-st-augustine-invented-sex#:~:text=What%20a%20married%20man%20and,is%20the%20greatest%20bodily%20pleasure.
  3. A good primer on challenging heteronormativity and creating a more affirming and loving culture, see Raising LGBTQ Allies by Chris Tompkins.
  4. Also, did you know that most states do not require teaching LGBTQ+ affirming curricula (see https://www.glsen.org/policy-maps – does your state?).  That means it is on us, as parents, as community members, to create the change necessary to end heterosexism/heteronormativity/queerphobia

 

…………………………………………………….

The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT500; sex-positive, trauma-informed sexuality counselor and educator (she/her/they/them); copyright protected, please cite accordingly.  The graphic is mine.

 

For more offerings that support sexual well-being, please see: http://ignitewell-being.com/events-and-services-summary/   For more information on my offerings, including the above referenced yoga class, or to work with me directly, please email ignitewellbeing.naperville@gmail.com

 

Please consider supporting me and my work via Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ignitewellbeing