I’m here to talk about The Talk. Yes, that one. The Talk that no parent is really looking forward to: the sex talk.
Today’s kids are facing a raft of sex education challenges that no other generation has seen before.
As children are online younger than ever, there are very few true protections that parents can offer them from the entertaining world of YouTube, Urban Dictionary, 4Chan, social media and even games communications.
There’s no nice way to put this, but the internet has taken away parental choices about the timing of sex education, especially when 90 per cent of kids have viewed hardcore porn by the time they’re 16 years old (many have viewed it before the age of eight), and the majority of those kids have seen it at someone else’s house on a mobile device.
This is also the first generation of parents having to deal with this level of online information being available to their kids. There’s no roadmap to follow and parents are working it out as they go, so please be kind to yourselves!
Six sex-ed tips for parents
1. Get ahead of the online curve
Your kids WILL see porn before you want them to. Be prepared, and be ready to discuss the difference between entertainment and real life.
2. Don’t have one big, awkward and overwhelming ‘sex chat’
Have lots of little conversations that are age appropriate and relevant to your child’s life. The perfect gateway is when they ask a question, or they hear something at school, which can open up these conversations.
3. Maintain your own privacy
You have every right to keep your own sex life private, even if your kids ask you directly about it. This is actually a great teachable moment about consent and privacy.
4. Listen and don’t judge
It’s really important that your child can trust that they can come to you for help and advice. The moment you close that door, they’ll look online or ask their friends.
5. Recruit other trusted adults
No matter how much they love their parents, some kids are never OK with talking to their parents about sex. Create a small group of trusted adult friends (such as cousins) who can help you shoulder the load, and are OK with talking to your kids if they’re asked.
6. Make sure they online literate
Talk to them about digital literacy, such as when strangers contact them online, or how to block bullies.
What to start with first
Consent! You can teach kids of all ages consent, and this can even start at the same time as toilet training does.
Consent doesn’t mean ‘sexual specific consent’, so keep that in mind. You want to be teaching your kids that ‘yes means yes’ and ‘no means no’, such as when play gets too rough or the tickle fight gets too intense and there’s a risk of floor puddle accidents.
The best sex education you can offer your kids is actually on their terms. Answer their questions calmly and factually, build up their trust so they know they can come to you for anything, and rather than having one big ‘chat’, have lots of little natural conversations when circumstances allow.
This approach makes sex education a calm, un-scary experience for everyone, with the kids learning communication, hygiene, consent, biology and (when necessary) the nuts and bolts of sex when they need it most.