Children are curious about their bodies. They start to see the differences between males and females and between adults and them at a very young age. Moments to start a simple, clear, concrete and useful talk full of values are presented every day. Talking to our kids about sexuality will help them learn about themselves and how to relate with others.
Sexuality is an important issue. It cannot be reduced to a single dialogue. The conversation may not be easy either. That's why we are here, to offer you some suggestions to make it easier for you to talk to your children without taboos.
To develop this article, we spoke with Silvia Beltrán, Associate Director of Bilingual Education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In October, that organization celebrated 'Let's Talk Month', to encourage honest communications about sexuality between parents and their kids.
Beltrán says in October, Planned Parenthood emphasizes the importance of starting and maintaining open conversations that help our children face some of the same challenges we experienced, to teach them to feel comfortable with their body changes and live the first crushes.
For parents, it can be overwhelming to talk to their children when they start asking about sexuality. Their natural curiosity give us the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue. This information will help the child to develop a healthy vision about his sexuality and that of others. That, will also allow him to take care of it and respect it, two basic ingredients for the promotion of self-esteem.
"There's no perfect way to talk about sex and relationships. Parents who want to start creating these spaces and do not know how to do it, they can always find informative resources about adolescence, sexual health, pregnancy, identity, personal safety and even key tips for conversation with children according to the age range", Silvia expands.
You will not only have to talk about sexuality, but also about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, risky behaviors, social pressures and general health. Doing it as a family and progressively instead of having "the conversation" relieves pressure and helps your child gradually process family values and the information he is receiving. Hence, the importance of frequent conversations.
Additionally, Silvia Beltrán emphasizes "it is okay not to have all the answers; the important thing is to have that family space to listen, validate their feelings and be present when questions and experiences arise".
These regular conversations express on their own that these topics are natural and important enough to keep coming up, and that they are part of life. They don't have to be serious or dramatic. They can be spaces for meeting with joy, which will favor the construction of a sexuality without shame or stress.
The taboo on sexuality still remains nowadays. Parents recognize the importance of providing information they didn't receive, but some are afraid of not doing it right and harming the child.
And as we said at the beginning, the day to day spontaneously gives us natural events that will help to start a conversation with the kids. Silvia shares some examples:
When a family member, friend, neighbor, or you announce your pregnancy.
When topics related to puberty, being in a couple, LGBTQ, love or sex are covered in TV shows, movies or songs on the radio.
When gender stereotypes are presented in advertisements, games, television, books, movies, etc.
If you see unrealistic or oversexualized depictions of the body (i.e. celebrities or models with Photoshop).
Advertisements for pads and tampons, contraceptives or condoms.
News or advertisements that talk about sex.
These are moments that can occur at any time, even without expecting them. But how can we start that conversation? Silvia Beltrán suggests you consider an open-ended question such as:
What do you know about how pregnancy happens?"
What do you think about the fact that that celebrity used Photoshop on the cover to look different from what it is in real life?"
How do you feel to see that this doll ad is only pink and only girls participate?"
What would you do if someone you date starts acting the way this character does on the TV show?"
Planned Parenthood has informational resources designed especially for Hispanics and Latinos.
A blog called Sex Without Shame where all the most common topics and questions are addressed in a simple way with a concise explanation.
Chat/Text is an app that offers a fully anonymous and data-private way to communicate with sex education experts via text messaging.
A series of explainer videos that can be found on YouTube where topics about puberty, ovulation, ejaculation and more are addressed.
And, informative guides are available on their website.
To build an open and available space for a dialogue is precisely showing our kids that we are there for them, no matter what, why or when. Actively listening to the questions and explanations our children ask will provide feedback that in turn will encourage other conversations.
Perhaps, it is time to consider what are our children needs, and we as parents know them. There is no worse information than that which creates fear and rejection and the one that you don't share. Let us not leave this issue in the hands of outsiders. Let us be the protagonists of their education. Informing them correctly about sexuality, drugs and other issues is our responsibility, the more information, the less risk.
Many thanks to Ximena Velez, Press Officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America for making this connection and to Silvia Beltrán for sharing with us this valuable information. that you can also listen to on all the platforms where you get your podcasts.