Pregnancy (like, the entire nine months). Potty training. Taking a one year old to a restaurant. A stomach bug that makes its way through all five children.
There are many parts of parenting I dread. Certainly, lots of moments I do not enjoy.
Of all the difficult things, the one I most loathe is THE TALK. You know the one.
The word I cannot even utter to my OBGYN, despite being fairly competent at it (see: aforementioned five children).
I don’t even like saying THE WORD to the husband who went in halfsies on those five kids.
So to actually talk to those same children about IT, is quite possibly the most awkward experience of my life.
And now I am making it even more awkward by writing about it on the world wide web for all to read. But, as much as I dread it, I think it’s one of the most important parts of parenting. And because I had children earlier than most of my peers (see: I didn’t know how birth control worked), I get asked on occasion how we approach this subject.
While everyone else is posting their super cute back-to-school pictures, I will interrupt your feed and fumble through my official Facebook Boom Boom Talk.
I cannot remember where I heard this (Moral Revolution, maybe?), but years ago, I heard that kids believe the first person who tells them about sex (**clutches my pearls as I write the word**).
And that’s why it’s important for you to tell them before they learn it on the playground or from a movie. If they hear it from you first, they will base everything else they hear off of your truth…instead of basing everything else off of a wealth of misinformation.
You have to decide what is true about sex and what you want your children to know. Obviously, the physical logistics are universally the same. But the mental, spiritual, emotional implications behind it vary greatly.
This will be different for each family, and I will happily share my personal stance if you want to message me privately.
The point is: if you are the first person to tell your child about sex, they will believe what you tell them. With the obvious caveat that kids become adults who make their own decisions, so they may eventually act in a way you don’t support…but by setting the standard, they have a much better chance of having a healthy sex life as adults.
In order to be the first to tell them, you have to tell them earlier than you want to. It is frustrating (to say the least) that kids are inundated with strong sexual messages so young. But the upside to talking about it early is that it’s way less awkward to talk to kids who are totally clueless. Talking to a teenager with raging hormones is way more embarrassing than talking to a nine year old who has no idea what you’re even saying. Because they aren’t flush with humiliation, you can explain everything. As they grow and develop, it will all make sense in due time.
Starting the conversation early keeps the conversation open. When I give my kids The Talk, I tell them, “If you have any questions, always always always ask Dad or me. Google will show you things you wish you could unsee, and your friends have no idea what they’re talking about.” I am not naive enough to think kids won’t consult those avenues, but I want them to know I am trustworthy and always available for questions they have. From time to time, I will ask if there’s anything they’re curious about. And usually the answer is yes. Don’t make it weird, but having the conversation early and consistently is important.
Your kids don’t think you’re cool enough to know about all the things they’re hearing and learning…because you’re old and married and grossly kiss their dad. So, when the time is appropriate, tell them you know about it all. As much as I dread it, I am very honest as my kids get older. I talk to them about porn and Snapchat and how the Internet and browsing history are forever. If your kids don’t think you know something exists, it’s unlikely they’ll talk to you about it. Let them know that, even though you may drive a 12 passenger van and wear sensible tennis shoes, you were once an 8th grader who desperately wanted to kiss a boy. So you know what they’re going through.
Once you’ve had THE TALK and while you’re continuing the conversation, set your kids up for success. Set restrictions on their phones. Seriously, kids cannot be trusted. Even the best kids have inquiring minds, so as much as it depends on you, restrict their ability to access unlimited content on their devices. And check what they’re up to. I do not believe kids should be allowed any privacy on devices. They aren’t cognitively able to handle that freedom, so help them out!
To wrap up the most mortifying Facebook post I will ever write, please know I do not pretend to have all of the answers. Or even some of the answers. My kids are still fairly young. I have no idea if any of this will work. But it seems to be working so far, and my kids are pretty open with me. Which makes me happy. I am learning as I go, and if you have helpful wisdom to share, I’d love to hear your perspective! And I know others will benefit, as well.
If you’ll excuse me, I will now go hyperventilate in a corner and pretend this Boom Boom Talk never happened.