Recently English actress Thandie Newton from HBO’s breakout hit show, Westworld, revealed that she had “the talk” with her children, Ripley, 16, Nico, 12, and Booker, 2. In an interview with The Edit Magazine the SAG-nominated star said that she told her children, “Daddy has a beautiful penis, which enters Mama, and these two precious parts of us join together…”
That would most definitely be one candid way to begin “the talk”. But, if you are not as comfortable as Newton talking to your children about the “birds and the bees”, how do you have that important conversation?
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the “sex talk” with your children. Remember, the sooner you start, according to experts age 5 isn’t too young, the better. This is about their physical and emotional health and safety above all else.
1. Have open and honest conversation. Start off by acknowledging that this will probably be uncomfortable for everyone involved and then just dive in. Kids that have open communication with their parents are less at risk to becoming teen parents, infected with sexually transmitted diseases, or victims of sexual abuse. It is indeed a difficult conversation to have but the more open parents are about sexuality, the more comfortable children are coming to them with questions. Clarify your values about sex, love, and relationships and make sure that you let your children know that “this is not for kids, but for when you are older and that you want them to make healthy, informed life-choices.”
2. You don’t have to say it all at once! You don’t have to have “the talk” in one breath and never mention it again. Break it down in age-appropriate stages. What is appropriate for a high-school student is not necessarily what your elementary age child needs to hear. You know what your child can handle. Tell them things that you feel that they will understand. “The talk” should be a series of short and sweet conversations throughout their development. Don’t put yourself in a position to traumatize you both!
3. You don’t have to actually “say it” all. In terms of sex education, there are a variety of other options available to parents. There are age appropriate books on puberty and adolescence, in addition to developmental videos you can use. Yes, you still have to talk, but there are other materials available to help.
4. Look for teachable moments. Whether it is through watching television, movies, spending time with family and friends, life is always full of teachable moments. Look for those moments and take advantage of them. There is nothing better than relating things to real-life situations.
5. Make sure they understand that NO means NO. Let children know that they are in charge of their bodies and they have a right to say NO if someone makes them feel uncomfortable in any shape, form, or fashion. Teach them that there are “safe” adults who are willing to listen and help if need be.
The most important thing to remember when having “the talk” with children is to create a safe, non-judgemental environment where they are free to ask and learn. Take time to think about and plan what you are going to say well before you say it. Children have access to so much information in today’s society, you just might find that they are more than ready then you think and have their list of questions waiting for you.