Every kid (please tell me it’s not just mine) has a trigger happy response of ‘I know, I know’. Most of the time whatever I’m saying is a direct response to evidence that perhaps they don’t know. Nevertheless…
Our kids may very well pull it out when we sit them down for a particular conversation about sex and sexuality. We’re not off the hook though. Any claims of ‘I know that already’ should be gently confronted since even if they know something there is no way they know it all.
We can accomplish a bunch of things by talking to our kids about sex even if they’re so sure they know all about it.
First, we can offer them sound INFORMATION. This is often biology, details relating to sexual and reproductive health and access to care. This is also about ensuring they can identify the potential emotional realities and societal expectations on the topic.
Next, we can offer them our VALUES. Every bit of information provided can be accompanied by a value we hold.
Another thing we can endeavour to offer are ANALYSIS skills. This is about helping them identify complexity and work out their own nuanced perspective and decision-making process. This is best achieved through dialogue. Asking them what they think, offering opportunities for them to reflect and share. It’s about debating the why and how and supporting them to have a more refined and thoughtful way of moving forward in the world.
The last thing we can offer is CONVERSATION. It’s about developing skills to talk about sex and sexuality. I appreciate letters written by parents to their children about sex - the content is great and the tone is responsive and open and honest – but a letter cant’ be all that we offer. We need to help kids practice conversing about sex without shame and embarrasment. IRL (I recently learned what that means.)
Parents will often say to me ‘ can’t you just come over and say all that to our kids?’ I’m lucky in that talking to them has offered me tons of practice. I try out my key talking points about porn, oral sex and hooking up with them. We all desperately need the practice. So try and get some practice in. But regardless, we have to talk to our kids. Often. So they practice.
And when they try to shut us down with ‘I know, I know’, we ought to explain that even while that may be true, there are benefits to having a conversation about it anyway.
So, settle in kid, ‘cause we’re going to talk about sex.
A wee post-Grammy Award example:
My almost 8 year old and I were listening to Sam Smith saying something about many people having experienced one night stands. I told my kid what a one night stand is. He was quick to judge it with an ‘ew’ and I was able to say that lots of people do experience them, and some people enjoy them. I explained that the sex you can have in a trusted relationship with someone you care about seems a lot better to me. I provided the information, didn’t shame any behaviour but was clearly sharing my perspective on the topic.