‘Having the talk’ with my kids proved more confusing and stressful for me than it was for them. The idea of explaining the mechanics of sex suddenly gave me cold feet, sleepless nights, and an extremely low libido! I imagined all sorts of unpleasant scenarios where my daughter would throw up on me, throw shade at us for ‘doing it’, and the worst thing of all – she would never look at us the same way. After overthinking and replaying all kinds of scenarios I decided that maybe I should ask my mother. Needless to say, that was a disaster because she had all the reactions, I had imagined I would face with my kids. And strangely that helped!
I belong to a generation where the word sex was never uttered. If there was an intimate scene on television, we were asked to leave the room or switch channels. There was a tacit understanding between us and our parents that sex didn’t exist till it did. So left to pretty much our own devices we whispered about it in school corridors, read about it on the walls in school bathrooms, and smuggled porn whenever there was any specific doubt. In hindsight, none of it really helped, and most of us had to learn on the fly. I had always promised myself that I would not be that sort of parent, and so I marched boldly into my teenager’s sanctum sanctorum, to discuss sex.
I had planned to open with a joke about sex. But I said the punchline before time and my daughter rolled her eyes at me. She was both amused and confused by the biology book I carried along for comfort. A few gaffes and ‘OH MY GAWD – What is wrong with you?!!’ situations later, I decided enough was enough, sex talk with my kids is not going to be my ultimate parenting fail. And I am proud to say that though the conversation had a bumpy start, it was smooth sailing pretty soon.
If you are gearing up for the ‘sex-talk’ with your kids here’s a few pointers from my own experience to steer you out of panic mode.
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How to broach the subject:
Kids these days are extremely perceptive and have access to much more information than we did growing up. So, they probably will know the mechanics and dynamics of sex already. Television, online shows, and discussions, and of course the ‘never let you down’ biology textbook take care of most of the things. What you need to do is put things into perspective for them. My go-to technique was to keep the conversation light and breezy. Talk to them about the reason why you are having this conversation, why its important for them to understand the complexities of sex and make it as honest and relatable as possible. Another crucial thing is to listen. Listen to the point of view of your teenager, this will help you gauge the extent of their knowledge, and you can then fill in the gaps. Active listening, especially when it comes to teenagers, works wonders in establishing trust.
Talk about EVERYTHING!
- Safe Sex – It may get tempting to gloss over details but trust me its better that they hear it from you rather than finding out the hard way. I decided to go straight into the concept of practicing safe sex and the various options that are available to them. You could do a show and tell with a condom but only if your audience is receptive to that kind of thing. I know mine would be mortified but that’s ok, as long as they know that nothing is off limits when it comes to discussing what’s important. Pregnancy, especially an unwanted pregnancy can have life altering consequences and needs to be discussed at length. I remember watching a movie where the dad would make his 15yr old wear a pregnancy prosthetic for an hour before she went out on a date just so that she knows the weight she would be carrying if she got carried away! (Note to self: buy the pregnancy prosthetic). Unsafe sex can also lead to health complications for both boys and girls, so do explain the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases in detail.
- The subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of sex – Explain, in no uncertain terms, that sex is not all fun and tumble. I strongly believe that this needs to be made especially loud and clear to the boys. Respecting your partners boundaries and the importance of consent are sacrosanct. Speak to them about the importance of consent before carrying out any activities, you need to tell them about what a bad touch is and how they can always come to you when anything happens. Girls need to be told that sex should not be mandatory in relationships or a tool for social acceptance. It’s ok to wait, it’s completely ok to say no. Abstinence is not a conservative ploy to rob them of something wonderful, neither is it a right-wing propaganda tool. Rather abstinence is merely following your own path to a healthy relationship with yourself and your partner. I found that my kids were far more understanding when I mentioned that they needed to be mentally and physically prepared to take on the baggage of sex, because it does come with its own set of challenges.
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- Sex and sexuality – You can’t address one without the other. I had a very interesting discussion with my daughter about this. She told me how her friend was upset with their parents because the parents did not celebrate their sexuality. Now this came as a shocker to me. Is that what we are supposed to do now? What does ‘celebrate their sexuality’ even mean? A little research and some more conversation revealed that the LGBTQ+ movement resonates with youngsters now more than ever. The pride parades and pride month are their Woodstock moment, therefore not addressing sexuality is considered as vile as condemning someone for identifying a certain way. The best way to handle it I guess is to keep talking about it, keep reading about it, go for counselling together if you have to, but DO NOT not address it.
- No judgements – If your teenager is already sexually active then this conversation is even more important. On a recent episode of And Just Like That, Miranda and Steve go through the trials dealing with their sexually active son and his girlfriend making out in their house all the time. It got me thinking, what an incredibly respectful way of showing your child that you truly care for them and that they don’t need to hook up in shady places (especially in a pandemic). By accepting Brady’s sexual needs the parents demonstrated that sex was not an aberrant impulse, and their home was safe and judgement free.
Talking to teenagers about sex is like talking to toddlers about washing their hands. You have to keep the conversation going. Its not a one-time thing. Remember the days when you had to repeat yourself and explain things again and again until the kids got into the habit of doing it? Sex talk is like that. You can’t do it over one afternoon and expect to be done with it, each aspect has to handled with care and sensitivity over time. Understanding the gravity of love, relationships, heartbreaks, peer pressure and validation should be woven into the discourse so that it registers effectively. So, my final advice is this: Keep the conversation flowing, give it a few years, they’ll eventually get the hang of it, and so will you.
Have you been thinking of talking to your child about this? What is stopping you?
Tell us by commenting below.
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We all in the same boat.
Liked the way you addressed the topic.
Your rec approach is absolutely clear headed and provably the only one available, in the times we live in.