How to Talk to Your Child About Sex and Love
A friend and colleague of mine and I had a few minutes to connect between clients one afternoon and I remember relaying some brief story that my 12 year-old son and I had been talking about. It was funny or cute or both, but I don’t recall the specifics now.
Neither does my friend. It would make for a better story if we could recall the details, but we’ve slept since then, so it ain’t happening!
But we do know it was about sex because later that afternoon, she came back into my office and humbly announced that she had not talked to her young son about the birds and the bees yet, and she asked if I would like to put something together to help her learn how to do this!
First and foremost, I was both touched and honored to be invited to help her navigate this all important topic! I was actually inspired!
I believe this subject is so very important for the health of our future generation’s ability to have intimate, loving relationships rather than what we might see on TV and movies, or listen to in songs and read about in books–which tends to be mostly “imitation love” or in other words, the trading of praise, power, pleasure and safety!
How does one put sex and love in the same place if no one ever teaches you?
We would never put our children in a car at 12 or 13 years-old , give them the keys and wish them well. We send them to classes on how to manage this automobile and have them log hours practicing it in a classroom before every putting them in the real situation. We give them hypothetical situations and then quiz them on how to respond. Then they must practice multiple hours with supervision. There is a calculated process. Why? Because it’s dangerous for them and others to do it any other way.
And yet, we don’t treat sex the same way. And it’s just as dangerous. However, if our media and culture at large only show that sex is used to scintillate, tease, gain “imitation power”, sell products, make money, have pleasure, power, or even safety, where are our kids learning what sex is really for?
S-E-X is still spelled because we aren’t quite comfortable with the topic ourselves. We are afraid that we will create an air of permissibility if we begin talking about it too soon or we just plain don’t know how to get started so we don’t do anything. Getting informed and educated is the best antidote for fear…and deep breathing.
Some great resources I used while putting together this presentation on “How to Talk to Your Child About Sex, Love and Dating” are:
How To Talk To Your Child About Sex by Richard and Linda Eyre
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
Real Love in Parenting by Greg Baer
Kids Are Worth It! : Giving Your Child The Gift Of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso
Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher and Ruth Ross
Don’t Call It Love: Recovery From Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes
This is one of my very favorite talks to give because I believe it is one of the most needed in our culture at large right now. The statistics on porn use or porn addiction is staggering. But what’s even more impactful, is how porn affects intimate relationships. The impact of social media is also contributing to the confusion around learning how to be in relationship versus how to incite desire and attract attention.
I believe that we might look back in 50 years and view the way we have treated sex in our culture the same way we now look back and view smoking cigarettes.
It was all the rage back then, the “cool” thing to do, the only way for some to calm their nerves, not over eat, or to help manage stress. Even medical doctors were recommending one brand of cigarette over the other! That is completely preposterous to our sensibilities now. Today we know just how damaging smoking is, to not only us, but to those around us as well.
I believe indiscriminate sex or sex before intimacy is just as harmful. We all want to be treated as the number one priority (at least by our significant other), to be genuinely loved and cared about and to know in our hearts and souls that we matter.
In other words, we all want intimacy. In-to-me-see.
But we got confused along the way (culture, education, media, experience) and we began to think that having sex would be equal to or create desired intimacy. Yet it never does. Never is a long time.
But we are like a fly in a window sill sometimes. We can see the outside through the glass and we are desperate to get there, so we just keep banging our head against it. Buzzing and buzzing and dive-bombing head-on confused as to why we can see it but we can’t get to it, until well, we all know what happens to THAT fly! We soon find it dead on the windowsill.
The tragedy is that all it had to do was stop for a moment, look at the situation a little bit differently rather than out of fear or desperation and notice the door to the right of the window was w-i-d-e open the whole time. With no screen. And it could have just flown right on out to freedom choosing to live another day.
Educating parents about how to help their children navigate the changes around puberty, dating and sex is one of my greatest honors and a true privilege.
I believe this information can change the complete trajectory of a person’s life. Every child deserves to have a healthy understanding between the differences of sex and love and just how far apart these two concepts are so that they can make an educated and informed choice about it themselves.
Knowing how to put sex and love in the same place, at the right time, with the right person can make or break a relationship. Your child can either be the fly in the window sill or the one that knows how to find the open door.
Do you think it’s the sex itself that is harmful, or the context (Judeo-Christian US culture) in which it occurs. In other words, does the physical act somehow damage psyche, self-esteem or identity, or is it the repression, labels, judgement of our society that causes the harm.
Or could it be the usage of sex for some other emotional/social agenda, separate from the act….the dynamic of manipulating others (or being manipulated) that causes the harm.
And if you think the pure physical act, outside of the cultural baggage and power-dynamics that go with it, is the harmful part, please explain the how’s and why’s of that being the case.