Jen Elledge here Sexual Health Expert and Founder of The Talk Institute here to share with you 5 things parent do wrong when Talking “The Talk”.
Want to avoid making some of the most common parenting mistakes? Of course you do. Go ahead, start by taking a second to think about what you expect would be on this top 5 list! I’d like to begin with a quick story as I actually remember one of the first questions I had about sex. I didn’t ask a parent though, I asked my oldest sister...I was about 5 years old, we were in the car, and I asked the most popular sex question, “Susie, where do babies come from”? Her reply, “Honey, I think we need to talk about that when you are a little bit older.” I may have been young and I know she thought so and maybe she wasn’t comfortable or sure how to share that information me. Either way, I wasn’t happy because later that day I had a smart aleck comment for her. She asked me, “Jenny where is my hairbrush?” my response, “Maybe I’ll tell you when you’re a little bit older!” I know right? Destined to be a sexual health expert at age 5.
Look, if you are lucky enough to get these types of questions from your kids, or any kid you’ve got to embrace them. It is okay if your answer is simple or even if you ask for some more time to get back to them, but what you don’t want to do is blow the question off. Don’t miss the teachable moment that just fell into your lap. If a 5 year old asked me this question I would say “Honey, that is a great question, what do you think”, I would listen then I would fill in the blanks with brief answers and wait for any more questions. Now as we move on to our next videos don’t worry if you are guilty of one or more of these 5 common mistakes parents make. I’ll teach you how to handle things even if it is after the fact. I look forward to seeing you in our next video on the FIRST think parent’s do wrong.
1. WAIT FOR THEIR KIDS TO ASK OR SCHOOL TO DO IT
If you are like most parents it’s easy to wait to have “The Talk” till there is a reason to talk about it. Growing up is getting harder and harder these days, and it’s happening a lot sooner than it once did.
Many times parents believe that conversations about the birds and the bees aren't necessary until a child has questions or has signs of physical development. The fact is however, that some kids simply will never ask these types of questions. Your child is getting a sex education daily from the media, television, internet, and their peers. You simply cannot be the only one not talking to them.
Parents should not wait to talk to their kids till their child has questions, or for school to do it during the 5th grade puberty video. Instead look for opportunities to share your beliefs and values about sex and growing up in everyday life.
Did you know experts actually recommend that kids receive age-appropriate sex education beginning as young as age 2 or 3. What, that’s crazy?!? But relax though. You can answer questions your younger kids may have honestly, but still answer simply. They don't need to know everything from A to Z all at once. It begins with using the proper names for body parts including the genitals, and teaching children about touching.
Like in my personal story that I shared, sometimes parents or adults believe children are too young to hear the real truth about sex, so they choose to lie or withhold information to protect them. Perhaps your child asked a personal question even like "Were you a virgin when you got married?" and you didn't want to tell the truth fearing it would give them "permission" to do it because you did. Try this instead, turn it into a teachable moment. You can explain the honest choice you made, what it cost you, and why now you can say you’d like them to make a better choice. If children find out you lied, it ruins your credibility and then they will discount anything you have to say about that topic. If your child is young, try to simply answer a question without much detail. If it wasn't enough information, he or she will ask you a follow-up question. If not, conversation finished without a big fat lie you're sure to regret later.
3. FORGET THEIR POKER FACE
You know how you can look at your kid and know when something is wrong? Well your kids can read you too. They will know if a topic freaks you out, embarrasses you, or makes you angry. It's important to be open when talking about sex. That means trying not to overreact when you are shocked or concerned. Take a deep breath and try to think about how best to react. Let me give you an example from a parent I met years ago. She was cooking dinner one night and when her daughter came home she asked, "Mom, what does this mean?" as she demonstrated an oral sex gesture. Mom freaked out and in a strong tone said, "I told you not to hang out with those boys down the street!" Turns out that some boys in a truck made the gesture to the girls on the school bus that day. Meanwhile, her daughter felt like she was in trouble for asking a question. Mom unintentionally slammed the door shut on her daughter's innocent curiosity.
It would have been better to say something like this, "Huh, that's interesting sweetie. Where did you see that?" in as calm a tone of voice as she could muster. Mom needed more information before she answered. Then she could have said, "Honey, that was a vulgar or inappropriate gesture. Thank you for telling me that happened today and asking that question." Better to freak out about it later to her best friend or spouse.
4. USE FEAR, SHAME, OR ABSOLUTES
Research has shown that fear-based approaches are not always the best tactic. Fear can seem effective but typically only for the short term. Absolutes such as all boys just want is sex could shut the door of communication very quickly. Kids get stuck on absolutes, as part of their adolescent development is to challenge rules. Teens easily discount someone who uses absolutes like always, never, and all.
Shame is another tactic to avoid. We get so caught up with trying to rally support for the cause with alarming statistics and fear-based rhetoric that we lose sight of the real problem. Young people don’t just need to know about the potential ramifications of sex. They need to know what the benefits of a healthy, consensual, and autonomous sex life look like. They need the decision-making power necessary to navigate this difficult terrain and need to know that after being given the facts about sex and sexuality, they’re going to be trusted to make their own choices.
5. FAIL TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OR CREATE TEACHABLE MOMENTS
There are conversations that you are going to have to initiate with your kids. If you pay attention you'll notice teachable moments are around you all the time. For example, you are watching a movie or television show and a sexy make out scene is on. This can make parents and kids feel uncomfortable. Instead of changing the channel, maybe this is an opportunity to ask your child about what you are watching. Look at your child's reaction and non-verbal language. If they look grossed out ask "Why does that grossed you out?" You could have an interesting conversation about intimate relationships, feel out your child's values, and instill your own.
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