The Best & Worst Advice About Sex

As a professor human sexuality, one of the  ways I first engage my students to in sexual health conversations is by asking them to write down, anonymously, the BEST and WORST advice they were given about sex.

The students find it so refreshing to hear they weren’t alone in receiving some terrible advice and excited about getting some new ideas on sex.  The answers are incredibly varied and often pull on the emotional heart strings of all involved.

So I decided to give the same two questions a try on my Instagram account.  Here are the responses I got.

THE WORST ADVICE RECEIVED

via GIPHY

  • “Not receiving any advice”
  • “No matter how you feel, you have to be in the mood when your husband is.”
  • “It’s my “job” to keep him happy even if I don’t want to do it.”
  • “It was a surprise to me that what goes in must come out (sperm)…I didn’t know to grab something (to clean things up).”
  • “It will only take a couple of months to figure everything out.”
  • “My told me when I got married to just do it whenever my husband wanted and it make things better.”
  • “Not getting any advice at all.”
  • “That everything will just feel natural.  it doesn’t take work or thought.”
  • “That you should still have sex if your partner wants it but you don’t.”
  • “Not me personally, but my former roommate was told by her mother to “lay still and wait for it to be over.”
  • “You should always feel like you can get on your knees and pray after sex. What??”
  • “You know it really hurts when it’s your first time, right?”
  • “That men want it every time women do.  He’ll never say no.  Not true.”
  • “It’s a chore that men really need and women eventually don’t at all so just get through it.”
  • “You’re just a place for a guy to do his thing. And that was from my MOTHER.”
  • “Keep your expectations low.  You’ll probably be disappointed regardless.”
  • “Not to have any sex…”
  • “I was told to douche every time after. [thumbs down emoji]”
  • “That it’s something to be done only when you’re trying to have kids. For real.  Neither hubby or I agree.”
  • “That you always have to be available for him.  Yeah right. Lol.”
  • “That it gets boring and you need some weird icy hot lube to make it more exciting.”
  • “Not to let him finish inside of me because it would feel like a ‘slug in your vagina.’
  • “That only my husband would enjoy it and there would be times that I would have to say yes to sex when I didn’t want it.”
  • “Just saying nothing…”
  • “It takes at least 10 times (having sex) to get pregnant.”
  • “I never got any”
  • “NEVER say no to your husband when he wants sex because he’ll go find it somewhere else/”
  • “I had a relative tell me before I got married that sex was just something women have to endure for their husband. “
  • Don’t talk.  Just do.
  • “Well meaning people told newlywed me not to ever turn down my husband.”
  • “It’s supposed to hurt and it’s really not for women anyways.”
  • “I think that worst thing was that I was told nothing.  It was just a mystery.”
  • “Worst advice was getting no advice.”
  • “You’ll figure it out when you get there.”  From my father-in-law to my husband before the wedding.  [face palm emoji] Not. Helpful.”
  • “No matter what, never, ever turn your husband down.  He needs it the most.”
  • “Don’t worry it it hurts a little.  That’s normal.”
  • “No advice.  Or information. [face palm emoji] . My honeymoon was spent looking things up online because I was SO confused.”
  • “Don’t ever say no.”

THE BEST ADVICE I RECEIVED

via GIPHY

 

  • “The best lube is human saliva. I about died when my mother-in-law told me this at a bridal shower.”
  • “Your pleasure matters. You can tell your partner exactly what you do or don’t like.”
  • “Orgasms are good for you!  The clitoris is there solely for pleasure.”
  • “It should be fun!  My mom always talked about sex in positive terms so I wasn’t inhibited when I got married.”
  • “To never compare or talk details in a competitive way.”
  • “That I need to figure out what works best for me.”
  • “To focus on pleasure and intimacy and not actually require intercourse.”
  • “Have fun.  Don’t get too serious about it.  Sex is weird and awkward and fun and feels good if you let it.”
  • “Sex doesn’t have to be miserable.  Empower yourself!”
  • “Never go down a slide that’s not wet [laughing emoji]”
  • “Your sexuality is not there to serve your husband.”
  • “The BEST advice I give is to relax!!!! Don’t tense up.”
  • “Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with.”
  • “Learn, and speak, each other’s love languages (including physical intimacy.”
  • “It takes time to get good at it!”
  • “Don’t compare yourselves to how often other people are doing it.”
  • “Be willing to laugh: from joy, at yourself, at the absurdity of it all!”
  • “I wasn’t told much.  I got advice from books.  And the books were And They Were Not Ashamed and She Comes First.”
  • “Never use sex as a weapon. Never use it as leverage to get what you want.”
  • “Best advice I received was don’t over think it.”
  • “Communicate with your partner. Plain and simple.”
  • “The first few times might not be super enjoyable.  It’s just about getting it in! Yes!”
  • ‘My husband and I were virgins when we got married.  We were told: use lube and take it easy the first time.”
  • “Laugh through the awkward parts together.”
  • “Relax and talk through what you’re feeling.  Remember that sex isn’t always “sexy.”  Remember to laugh.
  • “That as a woman, it is OKAY and IMPORTANT to find ways to make sex pleasurable for you too.”
  • “Pee right after to avoid UTI’s.  Wish someone would have told me that before I got one though!”
  • “Good sex is a team sport, good communication and working together are key.”
  • “Never fake an orgasm.”
  • “Women can orgasm!!!”
  • “Use lube!”
  • “Making sure my orgasm is a priority the majority of the time.”
  • “Have a sense of humor.  It’s funny sometimes!  If you can laugh, it goes from embarrassing to connecting.”
  • “That it’s a journey of communication.  Be a generous lover.”
  • “All of the things you share here [Instgram page]
  • “Communicate your feelings and it’s ok if you don’t want to have sex.”

So how about you?  What was the best and worst advice YOU received about sex?

 

 

Mormons and Masturbation Part II

“Science isn’t there to declare truth

but to explain in some fashion the world around us.” – Unknown

My hope with this piece is to provide you information and professional perspective that builds on my Mormons and Masturbation Part I blog post.  

My mission and purpose is to empower parents and partners to become the experts and authorities in their own lives and within their own families. This means you will not find a “right answer” in this post. Instead, I’ll provide you with information and perspectives that help you further discover what the right answers are for you.  

Additionally, this post was written specifically to help parents navigating the topic of masturbation with their children.  It doesn’t explicitly address how to navigate masturbation for adults (18+) in all relationship types including marriage, divorce and adult singles. However, developing your own authority and sexual agency is a principle that is relevant over one’s entire life.

Your Sexuality

Your developing sexuality is with you from the moment you were born and will grow, evolve, and mature just like every other living and breathing thing is this world.  

The American Pediatric Association has spent decades studying the sexual behaviors in children to determine what’s normal and common and what’s rarely normal. They categorize the following behaviors by child as very normal:

  • Touching/masturbating genitals in public/private
  • Viewing/touching peer or new sibling genitals
  • Showing genitals to peers
  • Standing/sitting too close
  • Tries to view peer/adult nudity
  • Behaviors are transient, few, and distractible

When observed via ultrasound, babies in utero have been seen sucking their thumbs, stroking their faces, poking their eyes, touching their genitals and exploring their bodies. It’s normal to figure out what all the holes and crevices are!  It’s great for a baby to move and stretch and feel the way their body responds. It’s also very comforting to suck those fingers or hold those toes. Touching their genitals can also be very soothing and calming and is a normal, healthy part of development.  

Your sexuality is an inherent, God-given part of who you are from the moment you are born to the moment you die.  Understanding your sexuality and learning to express and manage it is an important part of developing healthy sexual agency.  

In a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior college students’ perceptions and feelings toward masturbation were influenced by:

  1. Learning what masturbation was, and how to do it
  2. Recognizing the contradiction of stigma and taboo with this pleasurable act and
  3. Coming to terms with stigma and pleasure.  

Nearly every participant in the study learned about masturbation from media and peers instead of from their parents.  

Look at the media and the  grossly harmful, mixed sexual messages they send to our kids.

You no longer get to choose what your children aren’t going to learn or hear about masturbation!  What you do get to do is influence how and what they learn about it and help shape their attitudes toward it. 

Masturbation is one of those taboo topics. It always has a  shameful and sinful stigma attached to it.

While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made statements against masturbation in decades past, currently, there is no such explicit statement in the Strength of Youth manual. The manual contains a topic titled “Sexual Purity,” but there is no statement specifically discussing masturbation.  

I’m not here to interpret their intentions rather to share this observation.

In my experience as a sex therapist, many worried parents approach me with the concern that masturbation will awaken “inappropriate” sexual feelings in their children.

They worry that masturbation will lead their children to develop an out-of-control sexual behavior. It becomes a source of fear and anxiety rather than an opportunity to provide education, guidance and support.

This well-intentioned fear around a child indulging these feelings, and having it become an “addictive” behavior that snowballs out of control is not clinically accurate.

Arousal and desire exist within in our children as a part of being human. God made them a part of who we are.

Desire is simply a natural sexual feeling, and masturbation is an action many people take as a response to feeling desire.  It’s important to not project our adult sexuality onto our children.  For younger children, masturbation is about comfort and pleasure and may or may not lead to orgasm. 

Masturbation doesn’t awaken sexual feelings. They’re already there.

Sexual feelings are a part of your child’s life, and you WANT them to be there. Because when the circumstances are in line with their values, they can express their feelings fully without shame in one of the greatest acts of love we are capable of as God’s children.

I have listened to  countless men and women share their experiences of growing up and feeling  shame for masturbating. They battled endlessly, as they tried to find ways to not take action on their sexual feelings… and then experienced crushing shameful feelings when they weren’t perfect.  

For many, they felt that sexuality was something to be endured.,

But the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that your sexuality is not something to be endured!  It’s something to be cared for, tended to, and integrated as a part of your life.  

As an articles titled, “Intimacy is sacred and beautiful from LDS.org, it states, “He gave us the capacity for physical intimacy so that we could strengthen and grow our eternal families. He intends for sex to be a beautiful, powerful, and joyful part of our lives—not something evil or corrupt.”  

Shifting our perspective from sexuality being something we do and merely a set of behaviors to sexuality being who we are including our feelings, our expression, our identity, our desires, our relationships and connections can help us see masturbation as something developmentally normal within the bigger picture of our evolving sexuality.

There is a line in my patriarchal blessing that states my time on earth as a “great earth school.” This aligns with the gospel principle of eternal progression. We are here on earth to learn and grow and to understand what it is like to have a physical body.  We must  learn about and develop stewardship over our bodies and how our bodies, minds, emotions and spiritual selves all intersect.

Adam S. Miller speaks to this idea of learning about and understanding our developing sexuality in his book, “Letters To A Young Mormon.”

“With respect to your own body, you must practice. You must be patient with its immaturity because you are still growing. And you must have compassion for its weakness because you are still mortal. Learning to be chaste is like learning to play the piano. There is only one way to learn: you must practice the music without already knowing how to play. Similarly, you must care for your hunger without already knowing its strength, its character, or how to direct it. You have no choice but to learn as you go. Life has never before been lived in your body.

Teaching your kids to care for their own hunger will teach them how to care for the body of the person they’ll one day love.

Teach them to watch their hunger closely. See how, like the ocean, it has a rhythm with tides that come in and out and waves that break. See how it gets tangled up with the stories they tell themselves and with the fantasies you entertain. See how it gets knotted together with all kinds of hopes and shames and fears. Notice how, when the tide of their hunger goes out, this doesn’t suddenly mean they’re chaste. And notice how, when the tide comes in, this doesn’t suddenly mean that they aren’t.”

All my life, I have been taught that the biggest outcome from the great discussion in heaven, was agency.  Agency is the foundation of your ability to learn, grow, develop and learn to become like Gods and Goddesses.  

President Marion G. Romney said, “Free agency means the freedom and power to choose and act.  Next to life itself, it is man’s most precious inheritance.” (Ensign, May 1976, p. 20)

Man’s most precious inheritance next to life itself?  It’s that important!

Agency – making choices and learning from their consequences (both good and bad – is how we develop our internal compass. It’s how we develop personal integrity.

To me this feels contrary to our core doctrine of agency.   

Yet, what I have seen regarding sexuality within our church, is little to no agency around sexuality.  Most of our sexuality is already defined for us. The rules are established and it’s our job to simply follow the rules, which feels contrary to the core belief of our doctrine.

At first glance the idea of “sexual agency” might feel like a sexual free-for-all… but when you really examine the principle of agency, it’s not a free-for-all at all, but an opportunity to develop ourselves, and hone our internal compass which INCLUDES our sexuality.

God’s gift of agency isn’t meant to include everything BUT your sexuality. It’s everything including our sexuality.

Teaching your children how to manage their bodies can be one of the biggest gifts you can give them in order to help them develop a healthy sexual relationship with themselves and others over the course of their life.

Think of all the other ways you help your kids develop. You teach them things like honesty, sharing, and kindness… and you do it over their entire lives starting from toddlers until they move out.  

Let’s use sharing as an example. We know that our babies and toddlers aren’t born knowing how to share. It’s something they will learn. We will anticipate that they will steal a toy from a little friend, or hold on to their toys out-of-reach when friends come to play.  So we work with them, and help them learn how to share.

The lesson of sharing gets more nuanced and complex as they get older. Because they have been taught the principle of sharing since they were little, they have the capacity to build on their foundation and increase their skills and understanding.

If you want your kids to develop a nuanced understanding and dynamic skill set with regards to their sexuality, you need to take the same approach you do with sharing.

Can you imagine if you didn’t introduce the idea of sharing to your children until they were 12 years old? Can you imagine how hard it would be for them to actually share if they had spent their not sharing?  

Here’s another example of a socially understood and expected behavior: nose picking.  

Consider how we socialize our children around picking their noses.

We know that when our babies are born, one of the first parts of their body they will discover is their nose.

Parents expect their cute baby to pick their nose.  It might not be your favorite behavior, but all kids do it. You anticipate it and it expect and keep your fingers crossed that they will grow out of it.   

Because we expect our kids to pick their nose and we know it’s normal, we then start teaching our kids the social norms likes using a tissue, picking their nose in the bathroom, not eating boogers. (Please don’t me you encourage them to eat their boogers…)

For example, a parent may say to an older child, “Pick while in the bathroom, wipe on a tissue, wash your hands, don’t eat them, and if you compulsively pick you can get bloody noses, scabs, internal pimples and so on.

We help them learn how to manage their nose-picking in a proactive way.

Now, what if kids were taught that picking their nose was bad and that they were to never pick their nose — ever. However, the day they are married, they still can’t pick their own nose, but their partner can. Can you imagine then having to teach your partner how to pick your nose?  Scratch it? How would you know what felt pleasurable vs. function (don’t you think a good nose pick can feel so good?)

Also, is it realistic to think that our children are never going to pick or blow their noses?

By making nose-picking taboo, or forbidden, your kids might go to great lengths to conceal their nose-picking seek it out in unhealthy ways. Despite them hearing and “knowing” it is bad, their experience with it might feel good leaving them confused and caught up in a cycle of guilt and shame.

It’s amazing how many people will laugh at the ridiculousness of this nose-picking example. And yet, it is remarkably similar to our own sexuality and the agency we do or not allow ourselves and others over our own bodies.  

I use this comparison because nose picking has a “gross factor” attached to it… and in that same breath it is something we all do. We approach nose picking so differently and proactively because we see it as a normal thing all humans do.

Your job as a parent is to help your children navigate this period of bodily extremes in a way that leads them to healthy sexuality.

We teach them, no, plead with them to wear deodorant and take more frequent showers because they start to stink.

We teach girls how to manage their periods.

We help them to develop good eating habits.

Why would we ignore the crucial area of sexuality and think that somehow they will learn this on their own?

By offering guidance and education rather than avoiding the topic, you are saying, “I support you in developing an internal sense of confidence and knowledge about your body that will allow you to have the skills, values, and understanding needed to navigate the inevitable exciting and at times overwhelming sexual experiences you will have.

As a parent, you have a HUGE opportunity to shape your children’s attitudes and feelings about sexuality.  You are the stewards over your family. You get to decide what, when and how you will teach your children about sexuality and masturbation. You get to decide what your values and vision is for your family and children. You get to decide what informs your values and your decisions and seek personal revelation.  

I urge you to take the time to consider what type of relationship you want your children to cultivate with their God-given sexuality, with their God-given body, and with their future eternal companion. What principles and values do you need to teach them now so that they can have the type of positive, uplifting, and connecting sexual experiences in their future that our Father in Heaven desires for them?  

By taking the time to wrestle with these questions now, and proactively guiding your children, you will be saving your children years of time spent untangling from shame, confusion, and unnecessary guilt.

Mormons and Masturbation: A Hands-On Discussion

As a certified sex therapist who is also a Mormon, I get a lot of questions from parents. A huge number of them sound something like this:

“What should I do if my child is masturbating??”  

Here are some examples of questions I got just last week:

“I literally never had any conversations about [masturbation] with my parents or church leaders other than don’t touch yourself.  I didn’t even know if it was a thing girls could do until I was a teenager. I feel very-ill prepared to talk to my own children about it.  I do feel like the LDS standard (policy?) is contrary to what I want to teach my kids, so I feel paralyzed about what to do. Help?”

 

“I was always told it was a sexual sin but I also know that it is in other ways part of normal sexuality  and can help partners better understand and work together through sexual encounters to have a better experience together.”

 

“What is your take on children masturbating from an LDS perspective?  I have a 4 and 6-year-old and they both do it, almost daily. I know it’s not a good idea to freak out about it and that it’s not sexual for them right now, but I’m wondering when does it become sexual for them and how and I supposed to determine that?  When do I tell them it’s not okay anymore? How do I approach it?”

 

These concerns all come from a parent’s love for their kids, and a desire to teach them correct principles that align with their values. It can be complicated as a parent to know what to do when your kid starts to discover their body – especially if it makes you uncomfortable.

 

Your feelings around the topic of sex or masturbation can be so big that it can smother your ability to find the answers you so desperately want.  

 

People often bounce around from Bishop to Bishop, expert to expert, Facebook group to Facebook group, trying to nail down whether or not masturbation is ok.  Even when they find an answer, they never feel fully satisfied because it doesn’t fully match up with what they know, feel, believe, or understand. Many of these conversations around masturbation are focused on it as a behavior and a moral rightness or wrongness. They try to make the issue black and white rather than looking at masturbation in a larger context and considering its developmental role, how it intersects with a person’s own values, stage of life, medical circumstances, and age.  

 

As I read through the different questions sent to me by hundreds of parents, what became instantly clear is that they all had a uniquely personal story, experience, or major internal conflict with masturbation. I can’t help but wonder how many of these stories or experiences have been shared in a safe space where they could be understood without judgment.

 

My goal for this post is to create a way for you to understand your sexual story surrounding masturbation. As Albert Einstein said, “If you cannot explain something to a six-year-old, you do not understand it yourself.” In my professional experience I’ve seen that as you begin to understand yourself, you will have a greater capacity to support your kids.

 

As a therapist, it’s not my job or my goal to hand you the answers to your questions about masturbation. Instead, I will give you the questions you need to ask yourself in order to identify your own sexual values, how they intersect with your spiritual values, and how to figure out what makes the most sense for you and your family.

 

While it might feel uncomfortable to explore your own sexuality,  it’s very worthwhile. Developing insight will help you fine tune an internal compass around sexuality that will last longer and be more reliable than a quick answer given to you in a soundbite.

In order to get the answers we are wanting with our children, we have to start with ourselves.  

 

I’m willing to assume you grew up in a home where talking about sex was hugely taboo. (The majority of Americans did… especially religious Americans.) When you don’t talk about sex, you try to make sense of the different messages you receive via movies, magazines, religion, and other influential people in our lives on your own. As a kid, you probably didn’t feel comfortable talking with adults about things you didn’t understand, or things you were curious about. Most of us never got accurate sexual health information. You developed as a sexual being without even realizing it – doing the best you could with what you had.  

 

You soaked in messages around body image, sexual behavior, gender roles, orientation, self-esteem, healthy relationships, and…masturbation.  

For many of us, this word sounded as pungent as the strongest of four-letter words. You developed your own personal story surrounding masturbation. You may have strong emotional reactions about it or simply grew up feeling confused.  Maybe you did it and felt terrible about it but still liked it and weren’t sure what to do. Maybe you did it and told your Bishop and couldn’t take the sacrament. You vowed to never talk about it again. Maybe you never did it because you didn’t know how your body worked, or maybe you knew people who did do it, people who currently do, or people who enjoy the physical sensation but struggle with the emotional and spiritual aftermath.  

 

These experiences matter because they helped to shape and define your sexuality.

 

Now many of you are parents with kids ranging from babies to teens. You may be single adults, divorced adults, or emerging adults with your own sexual stories and experiences in tow.  Your own sexual stories around masturbation often get triggered as you raise your children and embrace them as sexual and spiritual beings.

Here’s your first opportunity to find answers for yourself:

 

  • What is my experience with masturbation?
  • As a boy, the messages I received around masturbation were…
  • As a girl, the messages I received around masturbation were…
  • What are the different hot spots in my history where masturbation came up?  When I was a kid? In the youth program? Before my mission? Before marriage?  During marriage? As a growing single adult? After divorce?
  • General messages I received about masturbation were…
  • What emotions do I feel when I think about my history and how do those emotions show up in my life, in my parenting, in my partnership?
  • What do I understand about sexual shame?
  • What do I hope to provide for my children that I didn’t get for myself…
  • What question do I wish I would be asked right now that would help me explore my sexual story more?

Working through this stuff can bring up a range of emotions including surprise, sadness, anger, shame, joy, relief, and more.  Be gentle with yourself as you answer these questions. Find a trusted friend or your partner to go through these questions with. Even just answering these questions will start to make things less taboo and more approachable.  

If you don’t have someone you can share your story with, but you’d like to share it, you can use my google form anonymously. I won’t be able to respond to you, but it can be a place for you to put your words and story.  

What’s next for part 2?

The conversation about masturbation is a big one. This post is only an introduction. In the following weeks, I’ll be responding more specifically to the common questions I get from parents:  Is it normal? What does the church say? What does the American Pediatric Association say?  But first, let’s start with you.  

Why I Won’t Be Giving My Kids The “Talk”

Not long ago, I asked several people the age at which they give their kids “the talk.” I got a whole range of answers such as;  “When they turn eight,” “The age of accountability,” “When they are nearing puberty,” and some just shrugged their shoulders hoping to put it off as long as possible. It was after these conversations when my approach to the talk solidified.  I won’t be giving my kids the talk.

Call me crazy, naive, and/or potentially irresponsible for adopting this stance — especially in our seemingly sexually-saturated world — but I believe I’ve made the correct choice.  In fact, because my children are presented with sexual images, messages, and languages practically every time we drive down the street, go into the grocery store, or just hanging out with friends, I feel even more confident in the direction I’ve chosen.

The reality is this, we no longer get a choice of IF our kids learn about sex, we just get an opportunity to influence HOW our kids learn about sex.  So why would I forgo giving my kids “The Talk?”  Because I plan on and have been giving my kids “the talk” and creating opportunities for meaningful conversations about sex since they were born.  My goal as a parent is for them to never remember a time when they were given the talk but many talks and ongoing discussions about all topics including sex.

I love how Sandra Kim, from the EveryDay Feminism website says it: “Given the statistics, your child is much more likely to be molested than to be hit by a car when crossing the street.  So try thinking of these conversations as being just as important than teaching your kids how to cross the road safely. “ And if you think you have a 6 or year-old who isn’t interested in the topic, they may just not be interested in talking about the topic with you because you haven’t yet opened the door.

But it’s not just about preventing sex abuse and talking about the negatives of sex, it’s talking about its wonder, its beauty, its excitement and all of its potential.  It’s about guiding them to become sexual agents over their bodies and their lives from childhood to adulthood.  I will never forget when my toddler son gasped with excitement, “Mom! Look! My penis is getting big!” and I said, “Yep, your penis can get big and then it will get small.  It’s a pretty cool thing.”  There are so many topics to cover under the umbrella of healthy sexuality over the course of a lifespan that I can’t even imagine fitting it all in and having it retained in one conversation.  So here are some tips I have found to be helpful to start broaching these conversations with kids of all ages. Remember, it’s never too late to start having these conversations.

1 –   Fake it until you make it

Most of us grew up in homes and environments where sex wasn’t openly talked about, so for many of you this is a big jump straight out of your comfort zone. The deal is, when I am not in my office as a sex therapist but at home as a mom and parent, I still have moments that catch me off guard.  This is where I take a deep breath, manage my nerves and try with all my might to be present with my kids.  This doesn’t mean I have to know everything, it just means I need to curb anything that would send the message that any topic is off limits.  Of all the sources my kids could go to get their questions answered, it’s my home that I hope is their go-to.  I often respond with “that’s a great question” followed by a few deep breaths.  If I’m not quite sure how to answer it, I still say, “Great question!  Can we talk about this during our monthly chat?” (see number four)

2 – Meet them where they are

We often times project our experience of adult sexuality onto our children, forgetting their experience with their bodies and sexuality is very different from ours.  When they ask a question, such as, “Where do babies come from?” they may not be wanting the full, detailed, flow-chart answer but something as simple as, “When a mom and a dad love each other, a sperm from the dad and an egg from the mom come together and make a baby.” At this point, they may say, “Oh!” or “Cool.” or give you a nod then return to their Cheetos.  Or they may want more information and have more questions such as “Ok, then what?” or “How does that work?”  While they may be interested in getting more information, what they are really testing even is whether or not they can talk to you about this and many other topics. Simply saying, “You can talk to me about anything.” isn’t enough—actually talking to them about anything is how long- term communication and solid relationships happen.  If they ask, “what’s sex?” You can respond with, “What do you think sex is.”  This gives you a baseline of where they are at.

3 – Talk about their birth

I have found with my kids, talking about their birth and the happy memories associated with their pregnancy, birth and first years is a great way to crack the ice.  I’ve shared their birth stories countless  times and continue to get new questions as they’ve gotten older.  It’s a nice and natural way to get things going and can happen at bedtime.  My kids LOVE hearing me goo over how much I love them and the various things I remember about them.  I also love the questions I continue to get as a result such as “how does the baby come out?” “how does the baby eat?” “how did it get in your tummy?”

4 – Have monthly Talks

I have a good friend who introduced the idea of having a monthly talk with each individual child on the day of their birth.  For example, if your child was born on the 8th, you would have their monthly chat every month on the 8th after other kids are asleep for the night.  There are two simple rules for the monthly chats: anything can be asked and everyone has to tell the truth.  These conversations become consistent and a great place to talk one on one with your children.  It also creates a great container if any of your children ask question that either you don’t know the answer to, if it’s at a time that’s not convenient to go in depth of you need to get your bearings.  You can simply say, “That’s a great question, let’s talk about this during our monthly chat.”

5 – Get books about the body,  read with them and have them handy

This is a great way to channel curiosity in a healthy way.  There are so many great books out there for children of all ages including: The Amazing You, It’s So Amazing, It’s Perfectly Normal, It’s Not TheStork, The Period Book, and Changing You to name a few.  I have found most of these titles to be accessible both in the library and in popular book stores.  As parents you can pre-read these books to make sure they are in-line with your family values before bringing them home.

6 – Don’t let their reaction push you away

If these conversations are going to be new between you and your family, you can expect a wide range of reactions.  From embarrassment, to being grossed out, to closing down the conversation early, to changing the subject, most kids have a wide variety of strategies to getting out of something uncomfortable.  However, with consistency and time your children will come to understand that you are infact wanting to open the channels of communication,  and they eventually will come around.  Some kids may never be eager and still may roll their eyes or act embarrassed, but it’s our job as parents to not react to their reactions. I have talked to many adults who came from open homes and despite not reciprocating with enthusiasm, were grateful their parents talked with them.