In this week’s Love Essentially, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I offer tips on how to talk to kids about sex.
How to Talk To Your Kids About Sex by Jackie Pilossoph
A close friend of mine recently told me something that shocked me. She viewed the search history on her computer and saw that her eighth-grade daughter had done an Internet search for “What sexual position is least likely to cause pregnancy?”
My heart sank, so I can only imagine how my friend felt. Her daughter, who happens to be a great kid, chose the Internet over her parents to talk about sex. Perhaps she was driven by shame, fear, anxiety or embarrassment.
It got me thinking about the difficulty some parents and children have talking about sex.
Parents might not feel confident they are going to say the right things.
Adolescents are as self-conscious as you can be.
Parents are unsure about how much our kids already know, and might have their own issues that cause them to be uncomfortable discussing the subject.
Leah Seligman is a Northbrook-based licensed clinical professional counselor, who specializes in treating children, adolescents and teens.
Seligman said sexuality starts from the minute we are born, going all the way back to the first touches we get from our parents.
“When our parents hold us and comfort us physically, those are the first messages we receive,” said Seligman, who says she has worked with children and adolescents for more than a decade. “They’re not sexual, but they send us messages about human contact and intimacy.”
She said as kids grow up, what they see on TV or the Internet, overhear in adult conversation or experience through other external factors – including how open their parents have been in discussing healthy relationships and the human body, can play a role in how prepared kids are to have conversations about sex when they hit adolescence.
“The truth is, if you’ve never had an open, honest talk about anything with your child, starting with the sex talk is going to be much more challenging,” she said. “The key is to create an atmosphere of safety at an early age, so that the child will feel comfortable opening up about any topic, including sex.”
Here are Seligman’s tips for talking to your kids about sex:
• Do a self-check. Ask yourself, “How do I feel talking about sex?” If you are uncomfortable in any way, you need to get a handle on what your issues are and why you are having them, and then figure out an approach that works for you. You might want to practice what you are going to say to your child out loud.
• Know the terminology and use it. Use real words when having “the talk.” In other words, it’s better to say penis, vagina and intercourse than vague, indirect allusions to sexual attraction and intercourse. If you can’t use the correct terminology, it sends a message to your child that sex is shameful or embarrassing.