Occasionally, my editor Charlie Glickman sends suggestions for blog posts to me and other Sexy Mamas Bloggers. Here is a recent one:
I was chatting with a friend the other day about talking with kids about sex and she mentioned something interesting. Part of her resistance to doing so, despite her awareness of the value of it, is her concern that she’ll have to deal with the fallout if her kid passes information along to other kids, who then tell their parents.
As a mom who does speak openly and honestly about sex and all kinds of other stuff with her children, I understand this parent’s hesitation completely. Breaking it down, the situation above seems to me to be about two separate issues:
1) the SHAME a parent could feel if their child tells the truth to a friend whose parents are too scared themselves to be honest, and
2) a problem of communication where this other parent doesn’t want to be TRUTHFUL with their child about sex topics.
Now when it comes to shame, I know shame; I grew up Catholic. (*ba dum bum*) But seriously, the best way to control others is through shame and guilt, right? Isn’t that how most religions control what behaviors are “acceptable” and what isn’t? But it’s not just religion that shames people. We do it to each other so easily. Shame (righteousness??) has become such a big part of the American culture. We’re all familiar with the various forms shame comes in. From shaming sexually interested adults and labeling them “promiscuous” (which for the uninitiated, that is simply a judgmental term meaning someone who is having MORE SEX than YOU are!) to shaming people for falling in love and wanting to be intimate with a partner…unless they are heterosexual and married (to each other). So in terms of talking to your kids, be not afraid. Just breathe and know the truth is not hurting your child. Know that the shame others try to put on you cannot stick if you simply acknowledge that it’s someone else’s shame, not yours. If you cannot be shamed then the shame has no power over you, right?
For the second issue, truth is so important and there are lots of things to be honest with your kids about and it’s bigger than just sex. We lie to our children to control their behavior in lots of ways (Santa?) but some kids feel really betrayed when they find out the truth. Ultimately, all children will figure out the truth – depending on the topic some might be teens when it happens – but the truth will come nonetheless. I don’t know about you, but I want to be the person to give my children real, honest info now so they come to me for the tough topics later. I want to make these conversations easy and commonplace so it’s just talk and no BIG deal. Given there is so much misinformation out there the truth I want to be a source that’s real.
Kids are going to hear lots of information on the playground or elsewhere if we don’t address it first. Here’s a non-sex related example of talking about tough issues: Yesterday we were listening to music in the car. J. Lo’s latest song “I’m Into You” came on. There is a hook in the refrain where she sings:
“When I look into your eyes, it’s over
You got me hooked with your love controller
I’m trippin’ and I could not get over
I feel lucky like a four leaf clover”
Having heard this song over and over, my girls finally asked “What does trippin’ mean?” I have to be honest; it escaped me a bit how to answer this. I was trying to think of what various dictionaries would say. So I bought myself some time and asked what they thought.
They wanted to know if she literally was stumbling but they didn’t think that was right. I told them it’s possible that’s what the songwriter meant but that trippin’ also had another interpretation. ”When someone is on drugs or alcohol, their reality is altered; Some people call that trippin’.” My daughters had no further questions (but I’m sure lyrics of other songs they’ve heard where an artist references trippin’ were being re-cataloged in their brains). My point is this: It’s OK to tell them the truth about sex or any other topic as long as you are doing so with love and understanding.
As I said in my last blog, innocence is a concept that some adults idealize when it comes to the topics of children and sexuality, but it’s a concept that doesn’t suit the real education of our children. Oh and please notice, I let my kids drive this conversation; I didn’t go into what I thought needed defining – what I thought a “love controller” was. *wink*
Lots of parents tell me they would NEVER want their kids to do what they themselves did as teens. Ok… so when your kids are growing up, why not talk about the decisions you made, why you made them, and why you would have done things differently (if you would)? Let’s not rely on the implied “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” philosophy as a way to influence our kids’ behavior. Talk to them with love about why they should do the things you want them to, not simply “because I’m the mother/father/teacher/authority figure”. Most of us know from experience it doesn’t work best that way.
Don’t allow other parents to shame you about your parenting. Continue to be honest with your kids. Do so with love and understanding… your children will appreciate it in the long run.