Parents, we need to equip and empower our children with constructive conversation and positive messages about our bodies, sexuality, and how every human grows through different ages and stages.

I can’t remember a time where sexual harassment, aggression, and assault was in the news more!  Our society is immature in its ability to form healthy, adult perspectives on sexuality. We have a clear invitation to model respectful conversation with the next generation. Let’s set the tone our culture is aching for right now. The conversations about sex begin at home.

If that feels daunting, stay tuned…

Saleema Noon, renowned sexual health expert, presented at our school this week in a workshop for parents. Her book, Talk Sex Today, What Kids Need to Know and How Adults Can Teach Them is a handbook for parents everywhere, offering practical, concrete, and research-based advice sprinkled with humorous anecdotes from the classrooms she’s visited.

Here are 5 things I learned about how to talk about sex with my kids.

1. Teaching Young Children about “Body Science” is Easy!

One of Noon’s revolutionary ideas is shaping the conversation with preschoolers with science. Use accurate, medical vocabulary. In her book, she clearly outlines the content appropriate at this age.

Teaching young children accurate terminology and boundaries is all about protection and prevention.  If we don’t want children to experience sexual abuse or exploitation, we need to teach them about the private parts of their body and the language of empowerment.

Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash

2. Little Snippets Works.

Learn Forward is all about the little tweaks we can make in our homes and classrooms to design for thriving. So, when Noon explained how we can tackle this topic, in the same way, I sighed in relief. It’s a gigantic proposition unless we can just naturally and casually address it over time.

This weekend, The Builder and I decided our core teaching was going to be the “doctor’s terminology” for the three private parts of the body: mouth, breasts, and genitals for our six-year-old.  Yes, we’re a bit behind.

Our big kids brought up the content all on their own based on a protest raising awareness about the sexual assault of women on their campus called the “Slutwalk.” We discussed its efficacy over dinner with all three generations of our family. It was an awesome opportunity to emphasize how our family values, honours, and dignifies our personal bodies and those of women everywhere.

3. Learning about Our Bodies Helps Us Make Healthy Choices.

In case you still aren’t sure, Noon taught our community this powerful maxim:

Children have a right to learn about their bodies at a young age, so they can make healthy choices along the way.

Don’t you want to be your child’s #1 source of information?

Consequently, we need open and honest conversations at home. While sexual health material focuses on factual, research-based information, these conversations will also allow parents poignant opportunities to speak with our children about healthy choices.

The example of our dinner conversation illustrates this idea perfectly. It was beautiful to explore the question, “What behaviours and choices value and dignify a woman’s body?” Even grandma chimed in on the conversation. When we have these conversations, then values will naturally emerge.

4. Make Your Older Children the Experts.

At about Grade 4 the conversation shifts and includes many more social and emotional issues spanning the range from consent to pornography. How will children know how to make respectful, healthy, and safe choices as they enter the realm of digital spaces? When will they develop healthy perspectives on normal bodies and healthy sexuality is? How will we help them understand the emotional risks and rewards for various sexual choices?

I’m pretty sure the one-time “talk” is not going to do it.

From my experience, we’re going to be most successful if we listen more than we talk.

It’s hard and boy do I fail at this one. But Noon reminds me, listening to our older child’s experience, expertise, and expressions keep the conversation open and heart soft.

5. Time-Outs are a Great Strategy!

Finally, if you get into a sticky situation or feel activated by a comment or question, take a time-out for you! Simply, let your child know you’ll back to them after dinner or at bed-time. It’s okay to take time to think through a scientific and clear answer to your child’s questions or concerns. There isn’t a rush because it is a gentle unfolding of information over time.

A good rule of thumb is, “Tell your child more than you think, a bit sooner than you think.”

You are your child’s best bet! We know that from attachment theory. We want you to feel empowered to have these critical conversations with your children. Consider it another Learn Forward opportunity.

For the sake of the children,

Karine