Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't Freak Out

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.

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Monkey's Mama said...

I remember back in my babysitting days I was making dinner and the kids were playing together in a bedroom. I walked in to call them for dinner and they were naked checking each other out very closely - they didn't see me so I backed out of the room to give myself a chance to be calm. I then yelled for them and came in - told them matter of factly to put their clothes on and come to dinner. After bedtime I waited nervously for the parents to come home and told them. They were so cool and thankful on how I handled it and that I didn't freak out on the kids. I was glad they didn't freak out on me! :)

Centers and Circle Time said...

lol...what a wonderful and simply well put post:)

My oldest is 17 and I remember her coming home in Kindergarten and asking where babies come from. Since that first awkward conversation we have had too many conversations to count. I enjoy giving her the truth and I'm even more pleased when she comes home and tells me all the ridiculous stories her girlfriends believe. A guy told one of her girlfriends she couldn't get pregnant the first time. My daughter came home really upset that her friend believed him! She found it ridiculous her parents hadn't taught her better:) It is so true, if you don't do it someone else will.

One of my other darlings took great pleasure pleasing herself while watching tv. I finally calmly told her it was okay as long as she was under her cover or in her room. I guess that was too much work. It stopped as quick as it began:)

Jenny said...

My first graders were just this afternoon discussing how babies are born (it was in the midst of dismissal chaos, of course). It was amusing, but certainly emphasizes the point that kids are going to talk and learn from each other, right or wrong.

Deborah Stewart said...

I am just too uncomfortable commenting on this topic:)I am glad that there are those brave enough to do it for me!

Once I was recruited by social services to go into schools and give a "good touch - bad touch" talk. I showed up at the first training and when they showed me what I would have to say and the baby doll (with all the parts) I would have to point at - I never came back:) I just couldn't do that.

kristin said...


we have anatomically appropriate dolls at school...those lead to great conversations.

Farmers Wifey said...

I agree with you that honesty is best when talking with our kids about these things. And being comfortable and not embarrassed so your kids trust you, is the best way....

Launa Hall said...

A few years ago I reviewed a book by Debra Haffner called From Diapers to Dating: How to Raise Sexually Healthy Children. Link: http://www.amazon.com/Diapers-Dating-Parents-Sexually-Children/dp/1557046239/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263410313&sr=1-3 Really good. She has a similar approach to your guest speaker--keep the lines of communication open, and don't think about it as One Big Talk, but a series of tiny talks as your child is ready for information. Really good reminder that having no plan IS a plan, just not a very good one!