Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Awkward is as Awkward Does - Talking With Your Kids About Sex

Many parents have found their way to my doorstep looking for guidance when their children start to play in the world of social media.  Just as we put training wheels on their bikes as they start learning to ride, children need support when given a smartphone or access to the internet.  I have a long plan of blogs outlined on this subject, but really need to start at a very basic level...parents, you need to talk to your children about lots of things including drugs and sex, no matter how awkward the discussion.

Your kids need to know they can come to you and ask questions, about anything.  For many parents it can be awkward and downright embarrassing.  You may not know even how or where to begin.  Here is my best advice, watch the movie Bridesmaids by yourself.  Take note of what you have not talked with your children about - the opening sex scene, the "C" word.  Bridesmaids is a fairly good barometer and covers the basics of what your children are already hearing about on the bus and will see on social media. Yes, you just read that - they have already heard it all.  

Once you know (and accept) the topics you need to discuss, think about how you want to broach these subjects with your kids.  What values do you want to infuse in these discussions?  How much technical information do you want to give them?  Are there great resources for you to share with your kids after discussions?  I recommend a balance of your values, trust in your child, and the understanding that crazy stuff is really going on in the world.  I do not recommend "you will burn in hell if..," "we will send you to a convent if..."

Once you have a basic understanding of what you need to do, you just have to bite the bullet and just talk.  This may require a glass of wine and that is ok.  Having these discussions on long car rides can be helpful because neither one of you can run away. 

Demonstrate to your child you want them to be responsible and are equipped with the right information so they do not walk around clueless.  You want to keep lines of communication open so when they have questions, need support, or yes, possibly need your help after inappropriate behavior, that you will be there for them.

Let's say your child reads a Facebook post about porn.  They do not know what porn is yet.  They Google porn. Ok - right now you Google porn, then hit images, then videos.  This is the information Google search will present to your child.  Sorry, I had to shock you.  Parents do not realize how serious this is.  Ok, so now when your dear darling child is faced for the first time with those pictures and videos, do you want them to sit there clueless and looking for more information or do you want their value system to kick-in?  Hopefully they will know enough that it isn't appropriate, should come approach you about that original post, and disconnect from the user who mentioned it on Facebook.  They will only proceed with this course of action if you have previously talked with them.  

So after the initial discussion, follow-up is key.  Stay on top of the trends out there.  If a celebrity dies of a drug overdose or the news highlights the release of Kim K's sex tape, talk with your kids.  Make sure you are continually discussing appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.  Remind them about the importance of appropriate behavior on the internet.

With my children I have a joke - if we are watching TV, a movie, listening to music, whatever, and there is a topic I feel is inappropriate, I can deem it a "teachable moment," and it will be discussed in great detail within the framework of my values.  This worked well when the girls wanted to watch Bridesmaids, begged me to watch Bridesmaids.  I warned them that the movie would be stopped for all teachable moments, and I followed through, and they learned a lot.  And no, wine was not involved.  

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