I clearly remember that first conversation with my mother about sex; it was during the TV premiere of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” I asked her, “What’s a virgin?” She replied, “Something you better be for a very long time.” Yikes! Needless to say that wouldn’t clear up my confusion. However, as my mom noticed my line of questioning growing so did her willingness to speak about the subject and I am grateful for those conversations to this day! This line of awkward chatter was helpful and taught me a lot about society’s attitudes about sex.
In this day and age, Madonna’s then-controversial song seems very G-rated. So, how do you talk with the kids of this generation, who are exposed to sexual influences in just about any song that comes on the radio? Well, it won’t be easy, and it also won’t be a one-time conversation.
When do you have “the talk?” The pre-“talk” work begins long before the initial sex discussion. In order to have critical conversations like this, you must first have a healthy relationship with your child. I am not talking about being your kid’s best friend, but simply being an effective communicator and positively integrated into their lives. You can’t be a robotic-type parent who simply takes the kids where they need to be, never asks about their activities, friends, or their lives and then all of a sudden want to have “the talk.” Build a relationship with your child and continue the conversation throughout their young/pre-teen years.
What do you say to the boy? I personally think this initial conversation is best left for Dad; if he isn’t around, hopefully there is a trusted uncle or other positive male role model who can assist. If dad is not around a positive male role model will do. However, there are things a mother can share with her son: things like treating a woman with dignity and grace and respecting her body. Your son must understand that “no means no.” Talk to him about the way to treat a lady and how to identify the sort of traits he should be seeking in one. If a young woman doesn’t present herself with respect, that does not mean your son should take advantage of her or treat her poorly; help him to understand why he should simply choose another person to spend his time with. His body is a temple and he should respect it as such! Make sure that he is aware of the different types of contraception and the many terrible consequences he may face if he chooses to go without.
What do you say to the girl? I have always told my daughter, it is so easy to have been “had,” so be the one they can’t have! Help her to understand that her goal is not to become a notch on some immature, insensitive boy’s belt. She must respect herself and take pride in having a level of dignity that no one can replace with a few seconds of shenanigans. Let your teen girl know that the guys who like her for who she is will appreciate this attitude and be up for the challenge if they really want to be with her. Like with your son, ensure that she understands what sort of traits to look for in a potential love interest and also how to protect herself if she so chooses to become sexually active. Discussing birth control with your children does not mean you are encouraging sex! It simply means you care enough about your children to protect them from the things that can happen if they get active while uninformed: diseases, babies, etc.
Building your child’s self esteem: Instilling confidence in your children goes a long way. It may prevent them from being subjected to the pressures they may encounter with doing what everyone else says to be cool. If they are confidant in who they are, they will be less likely to follow others. Show them they are loved and appreciated and praise them when their talents shine through. Give them positive and encouraging words to start their day! Say, “Have a great day! Do your best! I love you!” All of these comments go a long way.
Stay connected with your kids: You are what you hear, see and do. This is why it is more important than ever to be present and not just there. We all are guilty at some point of over doing it with technology, because it is a huge part of the world now. However, if the video games/TV and social media spend more time with your child than you, well then what they see on these outlets can have a bigger influence on their behavior than you. That’s a huge risk to take, especially when everything seems to be sexual these days from commercials to even PG-13 shows. There is really no way around it. Don’t forget the access to the Internet being available on the phones they carry with them everywhere. My rule: when the kids walk in the house, the phones go on the chargers and stay on them until the next day. There is no reason to be so engaged with your cell phone that you have no sense of what’s going on with your family. PERIOD.
Audrey Griffin is a wife, mother of four, inspiring educator and parenting lifestyle consultant. Visit her website, check her out on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.