Sexual health is a concept that we cannot understand without first understanding sexuality. Sexuality is a part of who your child is, and who they will become. It is important to have proactive conversations with youth early. They will attain a better sense of self, their own body, boundaries, and an understanding of the consequences of their actions. This will help them to make positive, safe, and informed choices with their lives.
Sexuality is not just sex.
The World Health Organization defines sexual health as requiring “physical, emotion, mental, and social wellbeing and a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships.” Sexuality is affected even further by how you feel towards your own body, sexual decisions, and intimacy in general.
Breaking these large topics down to kid level is actually so easy. Oftentimes as adults we WAY overthink things!
SEXUALITY IS INFLUENCED BY MANY FACTORS
Often many of these at once. Sexuality changes and develops over time, and with experience as well. Consider which of these, and how they might affect your child now and in the future, as you plan to talk to your child about sexual health.
CONSEQUENCES OF NOT TALKING TO YOUR CHILDREN
Even before puberty, providing your child with correct language and an understanding of their parts empowers them. It will help them have the vocabulary to:
- Know when to say NO
- Be able to communicate with you or a care professional when or if things occur that are out of order
WHEN SHOULD YOU START THE CONVERSATION
Puberty can begin as early as age 8-10 years old depending on your child’s own development. I personally know women who have had their first period at age 11 with no understanding of what was happening, because no one ever explained their body to them in time. If your child is going through puberty then they are already beginning to explore their body further and likely have questions. Empower them to understand and have ownership of their own parts, so they are able protect them.
10 SIMPLE TIPS TO START THE
SEXUAL HEALTH TALK WITH YOUR CHILD
1 . Always be on their side, and let them know
It is important for your kids to know that they are unconditionally loved, you are here for them no matter what, and it is natural for there to be some discomfort about this topic.
2 . Use what is presented to you
Kids are bombarded with images through the media. Discussing what they are seeing can be a simple way to ease into the conversation. DO NOT: Use this as a time to criticize the characters. Instead, use it to open up the conversation about all potential choices available to them, and what good and bad consequences come out of each choice.
3 . Be honest
If you do not know something, be truthful about that. Then look it up together and be willing to learn with one another. It is good for children to be aware that parents do not know everything. Teach them how to look for themselves, and be able to decide which sources of information are reliable.
4 . Let them teach you
Allow for them to tell you what they know, or have heard without judgement. Much of the information youth learn is via media, or from friends or peers. Taking time to praise them for what they do know, as well as clear up misconceptions when needed, is SO important!
5 . Discuss giving AND getting consent
Explain that no one is allowed to pressure them into anything, for any reason, and they should always get consent from any partner they are with BEFORE physical interaction occurs. It is 100% okay if they do not want to do what another person does. Encourage and empower them to understand that they can remove consent at ANY time during a sexual encounter, and so can any partner they are with.
6 . Outline pleasure
I find this most easily explained by simply reviewing anatomy, and tying in what is seen in the media. It is important to explain that this is part of healthy sexual health and it is something they get to define for themselves.
7 . Keep the conversation going
Adolescence is defined as the time from 10-19 but I know children are very curious about bodies, babies, and how things work well before age 10. Just answer your child’s questions honestly, as they come up. Keep your answers simple, but don’t feel like you need to offer more information than what they have asked. Let them know you are always able to chat further.
8 . Encourage body neutrality
Sexuality has a lot to do with how one feels about their own body and self. There has been a rise in eating disorders, not just in girls but also boys, due the media. Having a strong sense of self and self love, will help your child feel comfortable establishing strong boundaries for themselves.
9 . Outline the consequences of various choices
The media usually outlines sexual activity in a positive light, sex is not always perfect and pleasurable. Without using scare tactics, honestly explain what can occur if one chooses to make unsafe choices, for example: unprotected oral sex can result in an STI. Outline what that may look like from a physical, as well as a feelings perspective. There are obvious repercussions, but what about the more nuanced ones? Help them learn to think out consequences and make an informed decision.
10 . Be gentle with yourself
We are literally changing to be a better generation than before. There are some growing pains with that. That is okay! So acknowledge that!
Now if you are like many of my own friends and family and still think, oh hell NO! There are lots of people out there to help with this! I am one of them! If you are in MN and you would like to chat more, or go through an anatomy lesson, etc with your child please schedule a free consultation !
If you are out of this state, reach out to a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area, or a sexual educator on the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists to help guide!