Friday, September 28, 2012
How Not to Talk to Your Kids About Sex
Parenting experts (i.e. parents. Also, your younger sibling who has never had children) will tell you that, when it comes to explaining sex to your kids, there are two basic rules. First, ask clarifying questions, so you can understand what it is your child already knows, and what they're really asking. Second, always answer the question your kid asks.
For example, if your 6-year-old asks you where babies come from, this is not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them. Instead, ask "do you mean, from the hospital?" or "where do you think they come from?" And they'll just want to know how they came home, so your answer "from the mommy's tummy" will be more than sufficient
Of course, it's going to be tougher when they come back a year or two later and ask, "how do they get inside the mommy's tummy?"
That's still not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them.
Oh, I know, some forward-thinking parents want their children to know everything about sex, and to not feel ashamed, and yada yada yada. But for those of us from Indiana, we still spell out S-E-X, and it's still something you do in the dark, so we don't like talking about it.
My wife and I decided a long time ago that when it came time to talk to our kids about sex, she was going to talk to any girls we had, and I was going to talk to any boys. At least that way, we would each have a common point of view that we could share with our children.
Besides, nothing freaks out a young boy worse than getting the sex talk from his mom. This is an issue for boys everywhere, which I know from personal experience.
To be fair, my "sex talk" was nothing more than my mom handing me a copy of Where Did I Come From? and saying "here," which, as I think back on it, was uncomfortable for both of us. That single syllable was more than either of us wanted to ever talk about.
Earlier this year, I violated rule #2 of only answering the question that was asked.
My youngest daughter, who is 11 and a huge fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network, asked me a very uncomfortable question as the five of us were eating dinner several months ago.
"Daddy, what's a gut sack?"
Since we home school our kids, I had no idea where she would have picked up this term. Probably church, I thought. My wife cracked up at the look on my face as it dawned on me what she was asking.
"I think you mean a different word, sweetie," I said, explaining the word she was looking for rhymed with "gut sack," but was something different.
"Okay!" I said in my best this-is-serious voice. "Mommy and I agreed that she would answer girl questions, and I would answer boy questions, but that's not an option. So I'll just explain this once to everyone, you'll all know what it means, and we'll never speak of it again."
My wife continued to laugh at my discomfort and tomato-red face.
I then launched into an explanation of how boys are built, and some of the different labels that are used when referring to our anatomy. I explained several terms they were likely to hear over the next few years, what they meant, and finally concluded with "so when you said 'gut sack,' what you meant to say was (that thing that rhymes with 'gut sack')."
My daughter stared at me, thinking for a moment, and said, "Oh, okay. Because General Grievous on Clone Wars is a cyborg, and all that's left of him are his internal organs, which are stored behind a metal shield in a gut sack."
I don't know who was going to die first, my wife from laughing so hard, or me from the aneurysm I was about to have.
I had smashed rules #1 and 2: Always ask clarifying questions and always answer the question you're asked.
Had I just said, "what do you mean?" or "where did you hear that?" she would have said something about General Grievous and internal organs, and that would have been that.
Instead, my children all know what the thing that rhymes with "gut sack" is, which as I reflect on it, is not a terrible thing to know. At the same time, I just didn't want to be the one to tell them.
Maybe we should just send them to public school so they can learn about sex the same way everyone else did: from the other kids at recess.
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.
You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.
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