Monday, September 08, 2008

Let's talk about sex (education)

Welcome, Manic Mommies listeners! For those of you who aren't Manic Mommies listeners, go listen to this week's podcast by clicking on the box to the right (click on MM 134) or by clicking on this link here. And then come back.

The Manic Mommies invited me to be a guest on their show to talk about sex education. There is so much about sex, teen pregnancy, sex education, etc. in the news these days (thanks to the new Republican VP candidate), that they thought this was a good time to broach the topic. As a former family planning counselor, health educator, and health curriculum developer, I was thrilled for the opportunity to talk with the Mommies about sex ed. Because I did most of this work before I was actually a parent, it is with new and more experienced eyes that I now think through how best to provide sex education to kids.

Actually, the principles that we used "back in the day" are basically the same today. Here are some general tips for parents who want to start the conversation with their kids:
  • You can do it! Have confidence. Or at least pretend to have confidence.
  • It’s okay to be embarrassed, but you have to do it anyway. You can say something like: you know, talking about this kind of makes me feel uncomfortable. But it's so important, I'm going to talk about it anyway.
  • It’s okay if you don’t know everything. Start the conversation. You can learn together by reading a book or looking things up on the internet.
  • Talking about sex is a process, like anything else- don't try to do it in one shot.
  • It's best to start when your kids are young, so it’s not a huge shock talking about it when they are older. But it's never too late to start.
  • Use correct terminology: practice when they are babies. This is your hand, this is your leg, this is your penis, this is your vulva.
  • Teachable Moments are when things come up naturally: you see a woman who is pregnant, you see a TV show with your child that mentions pregnancy or sex, etc. Use this opportunity to bring up the subject.
  • Being an Askable Parent: we all want our kids to come to us with their questions and problems. But if every time our child asks us something about sex and we steer them away from the conversation, they will learn that we aren't comfortable talking about it. They will go someplace else for the information they need. We must show that we are open to answering their questions and discussing difficult issues. Sex is just one of many tough issues that will come up during their lifetime. It's important to be approachable.
And just a few specific tips for talking with your kids about any difficult subject. When they ask a question:
  1. listen
  2. figure out: what do they really want to know?
  3. reflect back the question (so you want to know where babies come from? what do you mean by where babies come from?)
  4. what do you already know about where babies come from?
  5. okay, that's a good start, here’s what I think…
I'd love to hear what you thought of the podcast, if you have questions, comments, or anything else you'd like to add. Feel free to leave a comment here! And happy talking!


Unknown said...


I can't wait to listen! I am a SAHM who was a social worker before kids, who did child protection. What a great topic. I will definitely let you know what I a good way!

Warmly, Kristin

MojoMom said...

Hi Adena, Congrats on the podcast. I'll be sure to listen in--the tips you wrote about in your blog are right on target.