Are you a parent that stays up at night wondering, “how in the hell am I going to talk to my kids about sex?”
Do you break out in hives when your sweet, innocent daughter asks, “Daddy, what’s a penis?” Fear not my fellow sojourner through the marshy lands of parenting. It’s cool. We got this.
I got the “sex talk” too late and with little actual talking. It was a box of condoms in my Christmas stocking and a hateful, “don’t make me a damn grandmother,” from my mom. I took it upon my early-teenage-self to discover what all the fuss was about sex. EPIC FAIL. The sex was great, but the fallout was terrible.
Sex became a way for me to find love and acceptance—stoking the fires of a false masculine identity and desperate need of a mom. Freud would have a field day with me. Things went from bad to worse. My girlfriend got pregnant, which led me to drop out of school and her to get an abortion. Both of our lives were changed forever.
Fast forward twenty-five years and six kids later, my wife (who is NOT my girlfriend from all those years ago), and I have a happy, healthy marriage—filled with lots of sex. We would like the same for our kids, in time. So we came up with the foolproof, never fail, 100% success rate, sex talk to have with your kids. Are you ready?!
DON’T HAVE THE SEX TALK WITH YOUR KIDS!
Do you feel better now? Don’t have the sex talk with your kids.
Have MANY sex talks with your kids. See what I did there?
My wife and I have been talking with our kids about sex since the beginning of their lives (well, the beginning of their lives around other kids that like to talk about blow jobs and the throngs of girls they’ll be “hooking up with.”)
My kids understand that people aren’t “pants you try on” until you find the right fit. Dating is preparation for marriage, and sex is for when you are married. Simple. Right? WRONG!! Even with all the openness and honesty we have with our kids, I’ve hurt them deeply around the topic of sex. Specifically, my daughters.
You see, I’m a guy. I know how guys think. GUYS SUCK!! We are vultures, circling around our prey, waiting for a chance to swoop in and carry off a fluffy woodland animal. At least that’s what I’ve told my girls.
In a desperate attempt to save my daughters from “boys like me,” I scared them into hiding their feelings about boys and shamed them for having breasts. “Boys are only interested in your body, so you better hide all the parts that physically distinguish you as a woman.” EPIC. DAD. FAIL.
Guiding my girls through the mind field of teenage sexuality is tricky. Dad-on-the-porch-with-a-shotgun is an old-fashioned stereotype that can ultimately blow up in your face (guilty as charged). I have since made things right and am on a path to better daddy-ing.
We started with a daddy-daughter pedicure and lunch date, where I asked my pre-teen girls forgiveness for being an idiot. They told me what they needed from me as their dad. I explained how my desire to protect can make me seem a little crazy. All in all, it was a great time.
After listening to their needs, and weighing those needs against my responsibility to guide and protect them, we came up with some things for me to consider and implement. I like to call it, DON’T BE AN IDIOT.
Defend (in love)
I will break my foot off in the rear end of anyone that wants to touch my daughters. I just have to remember that not everyone is out to hurt or impregnate them. It keeps me out of jail, and my daughters don’t have to wear floor-length denim jumpers and chastity belts. NOT FASHIONABLE.
Defending them requires more than muscles and a strong need to assert my badassery. It requires me to love. This kind of love means I have to…
Sex is as much a validation OF our bodies as it is a pleasure TO our bodies. We often don’t have the right perspective of ourself-we stare in the mirror and see a reflection of flaws-and sex can afford us a fleeting moment of feeling beautiful and strong. Telling my daughters they are smart, beautiful, strong, and capable, repeatedly, without condescension, empowers them to believe those truths about themselves. Sadly, they are bombarded with images of perfect people, with perfect bodies, living perfectly plastic lives. THAT is the new normal. Thanks, Instasham! Affirming them as women can act as a shield against those false narratives.
Humans are hardwired for affirmation and acceptance. Our children want validation. They need validation. Either we give it to them or someone else will. I’d rather it be me than some pubescent man-child who’s watched WAY too much porn and expects an orgy behind every door.
Acknowledge feelings (without being patronizing) FEELINGS?! KILL ME NOW. I suck at understanding my own feelings, let alone interpreting the feelings of others. Unfortunately, the world isn’t filled with billions of Me (I’m pausing to imagine that), so I had to get REAL good at listening. Author Stephen Covey-The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People- says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Quiet Stephen!! Can’t you see I’m trying to listen? He’s right, though. I regularly find myself waiting for someone to finish talking so I can insert my own opinion or thought.
People need more than a “fixer of problems.” We need someone that cares enough to hear us. Sex is a great way to fill the void of not being heard or known. When I close the door on my daughter’s feelings, I force them to go somewhere else (like out the bedroom window).
My girls have told me how they were afraid (and sometimes are still afraid) of talking to me about their feelings. No good can come from that. I must open my ears wide, putting aside my own fears and inadequacies, and listen with all my heart.
Here’s a pro tip: If you find it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating the words mentally as you hear them – this will help you internalize the message on a heart level. See also Active Listening.
We used to have “couch time” in our home. After dinner, all of the family would sit in the living room and talk about whatever you wanted to. Only two rules: 1) no “should-ing” on each other, and 2) no one gets in trouble for what they share. For that allotted amount of time, the living room was a neutral zone. No correcting and no punishing.
It was often awkward and unproductive. It was also incredibly freeing for my kids—try letting your children watch as you share fears and frustrations with your wife and it doesn’t devolve into a fight. GAME CHANGER. Giving our kids an outlet to process their feelings, fears, and screw-ups, creates a culture of conversation.
Whether its sexual identity or the act of sex itself, my children are being told what to think and feel by someone, somewhere. It’s my job to help them process what they hear. I still get it wrong. I still revert to “all boys are bad” thinking and wanting to bash heads. Thankfully, my daughters have an immense amount of grace. They get it from their mother.