If you don’t teach your kids at home about sex, people, and life, the streets (or their friends) will. The “streets” don’t have to be the seedy part of town either. The streets can be a church Sunday school class, an alley on the way home, the school bus, a classroom or playground, text messages and group chats with friends and associates, or perhaps even something as innocent as the walk or bike ride home from school. And while you may not be an expert in everything, you should be able to talk to your own kids about sex. If you have children (planned or unplanned), in my opinion you have plenty of time to plan a series of “talks” with your children about sex and relationships. Even if you knew you were going to be uncomfortable discussing sex with your children, parents still have plenty of time to find a stand-in-the gap” responsible caring adult to teach their children about sexuality in a manner that is suitable, respectful, and desirable to them.
I can remember getting misinformation about sex, drugs, cigarettes, friendships, etc. from my so-called friends in school. I can remember boys getting fresh, inappropriate touches, and being in situations that were not-age appropriate and potentially problematic if my parents ever found out about them. I often found myself in situations wondering, “Why didn’t my parents ever tell me about this stuff?” I decided I would never be that person in life, and I wanted to provide real life, relevant information that would help people I came in contact with. A real life myth-buster of sorts.
I was quite humored (and a little appalled) at a recent discussion I had with my friend’s children a few weeks ago while she was out of town. It was very organic, not alarming to me in the least, but their mother almost passed out when I shared the discussion with her. She thanked me for handling it, and I thanked her for entrusting me with her children dealing with such a touchy subject. Although my children are grown and gone, I never think that I am done imparting wisdom into the lives of young people (with parental approval and support of course). This situation was no different. Let me share my recent experience.
My friend has four children, and a healthy fear of discussing sex with them. So does their father. These children range from ages 19–11 (3 girls, 1 boy), and are pretty smart children. The parents are 50. I am a child-advocate, former HIV/AIDS community-based organization manager, and pretty sex positive I’d say. In any event, I was put in an unexpected situation where I needed to have a discussion without scaring the children. My mother skills kicked in and I went to battle dispelling myths and sharing truths.
The children began having a conversation about a variety of topics from abstinence and dating; HIV testing; how and when to ask a partner to get tested; condoms; and relationships. I listened more than I talked, only adding correction when necessary, and being the devil’s advocate during other times causing them to think about certain topics, thoughts, or questions differently. I wanted to know what these kids were getting in the streets, their streets. These children have been pretty sheltered most of their lives, so I had to inquire about where they got the wealth of knowledge they’d been sharing. They all shared that the bulk of the information they “knew” about came from their “friends” or acquaintances at school during discussions about the topics. They also indicated they had been adding input and absorbing what they heard from their peers as truth, which was a little alarming to me.
I calmly and hilariously dispelled the incorrect information, then imparted the knowledge I’d acquired from real life and my works in the public sector. It seemed the more I dispelled, the more misinformation the children produced. It was a fun, healthy robust discussion with many takeaways for everyone. The children appreciated the ability to have these discussions in a room free of judgement or shame, and because I was not their parents I did not have the obligation of “sugar coating” the truth to make myself look good in their eyes. I didn’t need to be Mother Theresa or the Pope, which was critical. The fact that they didn’t have to tip-toe or be reserved like they did with their pretty conservative parents was also freeing for them. The children also had pretty legitimate (although inappropriate questions for me) about the sex lives of their parents prior to them marrying.
Although I had inside information that was contrary to what the parents had shared with their children, it saddened me that: (1) the parents felt as though they cannot be truthful about their sexuality and past sexual history prior to marriage with their own children (i.e. your daddy or mother wasn’t my first lay); and (2) the children had been taught that their parent’s were something they were not.
Being truthful about sexuality and relationships with your children is so vitally important, especially today in our microwave, quick-fast in a hurry greet and eat sexual culture. The eleven year old child had questions about condoms (oh dear God I thought to myself….why today Lord?), and noted that he and his friends talk about sex, condoms, and told penis jokes at school. After I fixed my inside self (I had to keep my outside self composed), I had to absorb that fifth-graders are discussing sex, and spreading misinformation. Where they got their information, heaven only knows. All I know is that it was wrong and I would have never known about it had we not been sitting around the table as a family discussing sex and sexual health topics in what the kids felt was a free space. We all laughed at the 11-year old’s questions and he laughed as well which was good. I could see a sense of relief as he was able to ask his questions. I also could see his wheels turning which means one day, there is going to be more to come.
Kids are begging us to talk to them and teach them the truth all the time, we just ignore it. It’s almost like don’t ask don’t tell. Parents don’t really create an atmosphere where children can inquire about one the most basic human needs/desires, and children don’t cross the imaginary line that parents claim doesn’t exist in their households. We’ve given that parenting responsibility to the internet unfortunately. Most kids have cell phones with no child safety filters. We care more about knowing where they are than we do about what they have access to. And please know, just because you protect your child’s phone doesn’t mean other parents do the same. Kids with older siblings share nude pics, pornography, videos and all kinds of other things that young children are ill-equipped to deal with.
The lack of knowledge about sex, and the lack of regular discussions in the home make sex/sexuality taboo. It also opens the doors for others to teach your children about sex. We can’t control what goes on outside of our homes. We as parents can’t control what happens in the classroom; in hallways; on the school bus; while your kids are at a sleepover; at baseball practice; in drama class, etc. Kids are exposed to sex on a daily basis whether parents want to believe it or not, and they are being exposed earlier.
And if you’re reading this and thinking “Not my child,” think again. Please don’t think it’s just the poor kids in the not-so-good parts of town spreading misinformation and discussing sex at early ages. The kids I am talking about today are upper middle class kids, surrounded by wealthy (Uber wealthy) classmates, living in some of the best neighborhoods and zip codes in the state, attending some of the best schools in their state, and are STILL misinformed, ill-informed, and sometimes not informed at all. Sex-Ed isn’t an option in most schools now, so if parents aren’t teaching their children about sex, they are getting it in the streets (all streets, including the ones you live on). Don’t let the false sense of security and safety prevent you from talking to your children. Too little could be too late.
My suggestion for parents would be to become proactive parents ready to take on the challenges and questions of sexuality instead of being a “head in the sand” reactive parent dealing with the results of misinformation coming from the streets. I mean, you can be whatever type of parent you like as this article is not be judgmental or bossy. I just want to plant the seed that if you are not bein proactive you are simply prolonging the inevitable while possibly causing your child much grief, disappointment and hurt later in life. Inaction to me in my opinion is selfish. I want all children to have the opportunity to have happy lives. Sex and physical relationships will be a huge part of their lives.
Just think about it. How many of us look at our lives now, whether it is in regards to sexual satisfaction (or a lack thereof) or marital/relationship status and can candidly admit that our parents skipped out on a lot of parts of real life that we needed in order to make better decisions? I’ll raise my hand! Decisions about the kind of sex you want (or don’t want), whether children are right for you (or not), the type of man or woman you desire or need for your life (or to be single and happy in that), or whether you should even have a spouse/significant other. No one in my family ever told me that being virtuous is nice on paper and great in the sight of man (or woman), but men really want a freak in the bed so what is being taught to us is perhaps some fantasy/fairy tale meant to give liberties to one group while imprisoning the other group (it’s just a thought). How can I be both when I am expected to be with no one except my husband until my wedding night?
Questions, questions, questions with no right answers per se. Questions your children will never learn the answers to if parents never provide opportunities to discuss them.
I can think of at least 50 things regarding sex and relationships I was never taught, including where babies came from. I read about childbirth and where babies come from in library books. I also had to learn about my menstrual cycle in books. I read about the connection of my period and babies in a book. Thank God for books. Having open and honest discussions about sex early in life will allow your children to make informed-decisions free from most bias.
While I understand the need some parents’ desire to appear virtuous, perfect, pure, and all things “good” in the bedroom department before their children, the lack of real-time information allows for real-time misinformation occur.
Parents, please talk to your children now about sex. If you don’t they will talk about you later. If you don’t teach your children about sex, the streets will!
About Me: I’m Marley K., and I love people, real life and helping people. Being a realist is dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Embracing reality today is much easier than cleaning up the pieces of your life because you invested in lies later! Keeping it real since 1990!