Last night our parent community heard from sex educator Amy Lang, who spoke on the topic of how to talk to children about sex.
This is an important subject if only because it has been done so poorly by so many parents over the years. I relied on my own parents, especially when my daughter was younger, for much of what I know about parenting, but this was an area in which I had neither a confident role model, nor a willing resource. Since it's really not a solid plan to just let the other kids on the playground fill in the gaps, educators like Amy are providing a bridge for parents to learn to one day be a role model and resource for their own children.
One of the things she spoke about was natural, healthy sexual exploration among children. She emphasized that we are born sexual and that we shouldn't freak out if we catch our young kids engaged in innocent play.
Several years ago, I stuck my head in the bathroom and noticed four sets of boys legs in one of the toilet stalls. From where I was standing in doorway I couldn't hear the specific words being used, but it sounded like a normal conversation between the boys, punctuated by giggling. I let it go for a minute or so, but when it didn't break up on it's own accord, I said, "Hey guys, what's going on?"
The stall door opened and the four boys spilled out into the bathroom, "Franky" leading the way. Without a hint of shame, he said, "We were just matching butts and penises." It was clearly an example of age-appropriate, one-off, consensual exploration, which is what I told their parents when I later shared the story with them, emphasizing that if they chose to speak with their kids about it to not freak out.
It's of course best to never let your child see you freak out about anything sexual. I know that my own parents' clear and extreme discomfort about sex caused me to avoid the topic with them altogether, which left me to rely on other adolescent boys, not the most reliable source. You might be churning inside, but if you want them to keep talking to you, it's important work on presenting a calm exterior. Keeping that line of communication open from an early age is the number one defense against things like teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. And talking honestly and frankly with our children about sex is the best way to insure our children grow up to have healthy, satisfying sexual relationships as adults.