Sex-Positive Parenting & How To Have “The Talk” With Your Kids

This is understandable if talking to your children is enough to make you sweat cold. After all, each of us has our own unique personal relationships to sex and sexuality that are shaped by our history and experiences – all of which can be exacerbated by shame or trauma that others have placed on us in our own childhood.

Parents of teenagers are in a clear position to help shape their children’s beliefs and experiences, and offer the opportunity to provide a safe, affirming and honest landscape as their children bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. So if you’re wondering how you can have sex-positive conversations with your teens without making them cringe – or worse, make them feel ashamed, guilty or scared – the good news is, there are many ways to encourage open dialogue , explains Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., CST, a California-based clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist.

What does sex mean positively?

First things first: It’s okay if you’m not sure what it’s even mean to be sex-positive, let alone how you can convey the message with confidence to your teens. Sex positivity is both a leading belief and a historical movement aimed at reducing social shame and stigmas around sex, sexuality and gender expression. This includes any and all expressions of gender and sexuality without shame, fear, regret or guilt, with the recognition that safe and consensual sexual behavior is healthy, normal and natural, with the priority of making empowered sexual decisions, the expectation of enthusiastic consent and a mutual respect and open communication for and with your partners at all times.

The modern repetition of sex positivity can be traced back to the late 1990s, but these topics are not exactly new – in fact, they are at least 37,000 years old. Yet, with sex education in most states being sad at best and completely harmful at worst, shaping your children’s beliefs about sexuality and gender is paramount, especially if you want them to have healthy attitudes and agency. about their feelings and bodies.

How to start sex-positive conversations with your teens

The best place to start is when your kids are babies, Pomeranz explains. “Parents should not wait until their children are teenagers to start talking about sex, as more than 40 percent of high school students say they have already had sexual intercourse. “Parents should start talking about everything that is sex with their children from the day they are born.”

Before you panic, just remember that it is not necessary to sit your toddler and have “the sex talk”; instead, you can provide small, digestible learning moments for your young child throughout their lives, making sex education an ongoing conversation so that when they do reach their teens, they feel comfortable and safe coming to you with any questions or issues they may have. has.

And these conversations are not just about sex itself, Pomeranz says. “Sex not only includes the act itself, but also: anatomy (use proper names for body parts!); which constitute healthy and unhealthy intimate relationships; enthusiastic consent; masturbation and why it should feel pleasant and not shameful; pornography as entertainment and not as an ‘instruction manual’; sexual attraction and orientation; and sexual activity, including pleasure. ”

You will also want to do a little soul research yourself before talking to your children, no matter how old they are, which may mean diving into your own beliefs about sex and sexuality, Pomeranz suggests. Given the ongoing cultural narrative that centers on heterosexual relationships, purity culture, slut shaming, victim blaming, and more, you may not even realize your own sex-negative beliefs, especially if you have your own shame, stigma, or physical and / or emotional trauma. .

“All conversations – not just about sex – should be affirmative and unashamed,” says Pomeranz. “Parents cannot provide a safe space for their children until they have sorted out their own personal feelings about sex.” Talking to a therapist, especially one certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), can help you navigate and reform your own sexual identity.

How to make the conversations positive

Simply put, relying on your children’s health class to help them learn the basics is not the best step, Pomeranz notes. As she points out, more than half of states do not require sex education at all, while only 13 require lessons to be medically and scientifically accurate. (Jiik!) It is without mentioning that “the urge for just-abstinence education remains strong,” she said, adding, “States with the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country are also those states with schools that abstain. based sex education teaching or no sex education at all. ”

“Educational books about sex, changing bodies and sexuality / gender should be readily available in the home for children to access as they wish,” says Pomeranz. Ask your child if they would like to read the books together, or talk about it after reading it, she suggests. And keep an eye on what they are learning in sex ed and fill in the gaps where you can. “Watching TV shows, TikTok videos or other media on these topics with your teens can be more effective than trying to start a conversation without context,” she adds.

When it comes to discussing disease and pregnancy prevention, “it’s never a good strategy to scare children,” says Pomeranz. “Open and honest discussions about potential risks, risk management and harm reduction are the name of the game.” And while you obviously want to protect your kids from mistakes, Pomeranz argues that it’s better to provide a “safe haven” for your teen so they know you’re just a phone call or text away for help in any situation, no questions asked asked.

The TL; DR here, according to Pomeranz: “Conversations on these topics will flow much smoother, be much less uncomfortable and have a greater likelihood of success if parents and teens have been talking about sex all along,” makes a big sitting -down talk about sex shrink-worthy for all parties involved. “Children often become frightening when sex is raised out of the blue. When your teen talks about sexuality, sex or gender, listen deeply, show interest and curiosity, and be very loving.”

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