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Utilize & Create Teachable Moments

What is a teachable moment?

A teachable moment is an opportunity that you find to say something brief about sexuality (or any topic really) that might affirm a value important to you, or provide accurate information, or express the way you feel about a situation. Look for organic and real opportunities to talk about sexuality, relationships, gender, and more. TV and movies are loaded with them. The news and social media is another easy source of plentiful material.  Is there a neighbor or a family member getting a divorce or that is pregnant?  A friend from school that was adopted or has same-sex parents?  Look for things in your child's everyday environment to bring the subject up.  If that doesn't work, create your own teachable moments.  Buy a book, movie, or watch a YouTube video that can help you broach the topic.  

Here are some ideas for great everyday moments that could help you spark a conversation: 

  • Pets - If you have an animal in heat, pregnant, or exhibiting mating behavior it could be an excellent opportunity to discuss how mammals (including humans) procreate. This could happen during a visit to the zoo also if you are lucky. 
  • Playing with a friend - Look for opportunities during play to discuss how we treat others, share, deal with conflict, handle secrets, and more. Children are also known to play doctor or other games that may give you an opportunity to talk about gender differences.
  • News - Current events and news can bring up many adult topics that you may or may not be "ready" for, but if your child asks you about something do your best to answer.  Topics like sexual assault, school violence, rape, and murder are just a few. Use moments like these to explain the world, that there are good and bad people, how to be safe, and your family values. 
  • TV show/movie - While watching a movie or show with your child you may encounter a teachable moment you weren't looking for or use it to create one.  When children are young parents tend to change the channel or cover their child's eyes during a sexy or violent scene. As kids get older I challenge you to stop covering your child's eyes and teach them how to see.  Help them understand what they are watching and use it as a discussion point during or after a movie/show. There are plenty of opportunities to instill values, correct false or misleading information, or discuss relationship dynamics.  
  • Car radio - Music, commercials, and commentary can also provide excellent talking points. If your child starts singing a song that seems "inappropriate" or has sexual language you could ask what they think it means. With older children, you can discuss relationships, breakups, and realistic 'vs' unrealistic expectations in intimate relationships. 
  • Books - Use books to broach subjects by gifting or reading them together. These can help you guide your children through difficult stages or troubles they may be facing with friends, bullying, puberty, social media, etc. 

Why are teachable moments important?

Kids learn best when the subject is part of their everyday life or is happening now. It will be relevant and easier to understand for children if they are experiencing it. This works for some scenarios where others you'll need to look for ways to create these moments or discussion opportunities.  

Lets practice this a bit. Imagine you found yourself in the following situations with your child. How could you turn these moments into teachable ones? Meaning, what value or belief could you instill in your child at a moment like this? 

Think about the following questions after reading each teachable moment:

▪ If you were in this situation, how could you turn this into a teachable moment and start a conversation with your child?

▪ How does your child’s age affect how little or much you say? How about the sex of your child?

▪ What values do you wish to communicate?

▪ How could you stay calm and think about how to handle these situations? What concerns or hesitations come up for you? 

Practice what you might say here:

1. At a recent family party, you and your child(ren) learn that a family member and his wife are getting a divorce.  _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2. You and your child are at the beach and notice two men holding hands.

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3. While driving home from school one day your child asks you, “What’s a condom”.

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4. You are watching the news with your child and a story about another athlete facing charges for sexual assault is the headline for the night.

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5. Your child and their friend are giggling in the bedroom. You open the door to see what’s so funny and you find them looking at a naked woman on the internet.

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6. Your child is watching television while you are cleaning the house and when you look over to check on him/her you notice he/she is touching themselves.

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7. You are watching a PG-13 movie with your child and there is a very sexy scene.

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8. It’s late at night and you are making love to your partner and your child walks in without knocking because he/she had a bad dream.

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Creating a Teachable Moment

Every day there are opportunities to have talks with our children about growing up.

Today I want you to pick a moment, any moment that is either naturally occurring or created, to discuss something important with your child.

What is one value you’d like to instill in your child today?

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Is there a TV show, movie, book, news, or life event going on that can help you talk about this value? What is it?

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Now make a plan here…Can you bring it up while in the car, playing a game together, or sharing a meal? What key messages do you want to be sure to get across?

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Now do it and journal here what happened…

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We would love to hear your stories! Please share your teachable moments in the comments! 

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