Let’s Talk About Sex! The Time To Teach Your Kid About Sex Is Now
I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in the South. As you can imagine, the subject of sex was not something that was discussed in the Bible Belt. It was a taboo topic, one that would get you several side eyes and startled gasps complete with dainty clutches of the chest. I have a very vivid memory of being with my sister in a grocery store and discussing the differences in tampons. I was about twelve and she was fourteen. I’d plucked the store brand off the shelf, and Jo (my sister) had vehemently shaken her head at me, explaining that those had cardboard applicators. I’d been (understandably) shocked to the core.
“Why would they do that?! Cardboard?! No way am I sticking that in my vagina!”
Had I been paying attention to my surroundings, I may have realized that a senior woman stood less than five paces to my right. She’d had one of those large brim hats one reserve solely for Sunday worship and was draped in colossal beaded pearls and an ankle length floral sundress accompanied with matching gloves. The resounding gasp she’d made at my words had my sister and I whipping our heads in her direction readying ourselves for the second coming. Why Jesus would decide to show up in the middle of the feminine hygiene aisle right next to the Poise pads was anyone’s guess, but the two of us were certain that was the level of shock we were dealing with.
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I will never forget the look I’d received from this woman. It was the kind of look one gets from a teacher who’s dealt with one too many rowdy students in her time. A look which can only be described as encompassing years of pent-up indignant rage. Her wrinkled face was reddened and puckered with righteous vexation and, when she lifted her hand to point a dainty pastel covered finger at me, I took a small step back into my sister.
“Young Lady!!!!! We do NOT use that word!!!”
For a second, I stood there glued to the spot. I’m not sure, but I believe the woman’s outcry had triggered terror-filled visions of a school principal office visit where I’d had to “explain my behavior” to a panel of judges in the form of school administrators and my mother. It took me a few moments to come back to reality. Once I did, I turned a wrinkled brow towards Jo in confusion. Had I accidentally cursed during my shocked cardboard revelation? My sister (who’s always been far braver than I) simply rolled her eyes at the woman. She hooked her arm through mine and transformed into my own personal hero.
“You’re right. Cardboard should never go in your-”
Jo paused long enough to turn towards the woman and look her directly in the eyes before raising her voice to the heavens and shouting out the next word as if it were a proclamation from the divine itself.
The word bounced around the now silent store as Jo led me out like the badass she was. My point in telling this endearing story is that situations like these shouldn’t happen. The word “vagina” isn’t a bad word. Neither are the words “penis,” “vulva,” “testicles,” “scrotum,” “breasts,” etc. The only way to avoid living in a society where the names of body parts are lumped into the same category as expletives are to educate our children from an early age to be open about these topics.
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In the Netherlands, sexual education is taught as early as age four. Before you hem and haw about how four-year-olds are too young to learn about sex, allow me to explain. This isn’t about discussing the act. It encompasses a range of topics including proper names for body parts, relationships, and love. It’s all about teaching kids to have respect for their own sexuality and for the sexuality of others. If you’re concerned about what kind of impact, this could have on your child, then you should know the Netherlands is in the lead when it comes to teen sexual health. By this, I mean that the teen pregnancy rate is eight times lower than that of the U.S., initial sexual encounters occur at a later age than that of the U.S. (and other European countries), and that when Dutch teens have sex, most report their encounters as positive. In the U.S., nearly 70 percent of teens wished they would have waited.
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The Netherlands are proof that an open and comprehensive approach to sexual education leads to healthier, safer, and happier teens. As most schools do not offer this type of education, the responsibility falls on us, as parents, to teach our children how to be open about sex and their bodies. There are many resources available that break down proper communication by age groups. Here is an excellent article by Karen Young, which goes into detail. Also, Sex-Ed Rescue has a large comprehensive list of books categorized by age for you to share with your child. You can find another comprehensive list at Center for Healthy Sex.
Have you talked to your kids about sex yet?