Thursday, January 20, 2011

Having “The Talk” with Your Kids

Today’s post is somewhat sensitive. It has to do with “the talk.” Or to put it another way, “the birds and the bees.” Yes, it’s the talk about sex. It certainly is not the easiest topic for me to write about. I’m not an expert on the subject, yet I have two children – one who’s about to become a teenager and a newborn. I know that whether I like it or not, it’s a subject matter that has to be addressed. If not, they may very well get educated on the matter by others who may not necessarily have the insight that a loving parent does.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I don’t typically write on matters such as today’s topic. Yet, we have readers all over the world and we have the platform to give insight that we believe is valuable to dads and moms as they raise their kids. So I believe that the responsible thing to do is to share some valuable information on the topic, while recognizing the sensitivity of the subject.
Many of us as parents can reflect on our childhood and the time that we began learning about sex and the entire reproductive process. You may agree with me that much of what we learned on the subject didn’t come from our homes.  But rather, it came from our friends at school or from movies that we watched. Then when we reached puberty and began experiencing emotions and desire for intimacy, our curiosity on the subject became greater.
Traditionally, parents haven’t really sat with their kids to talk about this area with them.  Instead, they give them a good solid foundation in the home about life and trust that when they become older, they will make the right choices in all areas. Subjects such as sex and reproduction are not your typical dinner table topics.
What has occurred over time, however, is that information has become so readily available that practically everything you may want to learn about can be accessed without much effort. If you want to learn about some abstract topic that half the world’s population has never heard about, all you have to do is get on the computer and type in some information in a search engine and voila, there it is, right in front of you.
Many of our kids are even more skilled on the computer than we are. They don’t know what a world without home computers is like. To them, you can always find what you want by getting online. For those of my generation, the library was our source of information. Remember doing research and going to the library for hours on end? Remember the microfiche? We really had to spend hours looking for information that our kids can find in seconds.
So what I’m saying through all this is, if we do not educate our kids on the topic, then they will learn somehow and we might not like just how they learn it. It may be from the internet or from a movie at home or in the theatre. Or it could be from friends who may not necessarily have the most tactful approach or knowledge to teach them about this very sensitive matter. You don’t want them to learn in the wrong environment that it wasn’t really a stork that dropped them off at your doorstep.
I’m fortunate that although my daughter is in the 7th grade now, about 2 years ago, through a program in her school district, she began being formally educated on this subject. At the time, I was a single dad. Her school sent home a document with her for me to authorize them to teach her about human sexuality. I reviewed the document in detail before signing it because though I believe that the topic is important for her to learn about, I wanted to ensure it was done in good taste. That also prompted me to begin speaking with her, in a very delicate manner, about the topic. Believe me, even today it’s not a topic I enjoy speaking with her about. Yet, I’d prefer that she learns about it from her parents than from others.
As you may know, teen pregnancy is an issue that we have to face as a society. We also have to deal with sexually transmitted diseases. Whether we like it or not, this is the reality in our world today. I believe that if I take the approach of the ostrich and stick my head in the sand and hope that the problem goes away, it would be irresponsible on my part as a loving parent. Just like we send our kids to school each day so that they can become equipped to succeed as adults, in the same way, I believe that we ought to equip them with important information when it comes to the areas of human sexuality.
A question that one may ask is, “At what age is it appropriate to initiate that conversation?” I don’t know if there’s a specific age, per se. I do know, however, that our kids get exposed to so much information from the moment that they begin leaving home to go to school or to other activities outside of the home. Even at my daughter’s middle school, I’m amazed at some things that she tells me of that occur at school. Even if I were hesitant to initiate the conversation, based on what I know she is exposed to by other students, I know I’d need to start right away.
I encourage you as parents to establish the type of relationship with your kids that they feel that they can talk with you. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can help to ensure that as they grow older, they won’t shut you out of critical areas of their development. I know that in a few years, our 12 year old’s life may not be the open book to us that it is now. But I try to keep the communication lines open so that she always knows she can speak with us.
I hope that this post has been helpful to you. I didn’t go into specific details of how you should approach having the talk. You know yourself and you know your kids. If you’re uncomfortable initiating the conversation, then perhaps you can have a trusted family member, friend or counselor to have that conversation with them. If your kids’ school has a program to teach them about human sexuality, then please consider how they may benefit from such a program. Believe me, in this age of technology, you don’t want them learning about this area without your involvement. You may not like just how it is they get their education.
Please know that this isn’t the easiest topic for me to write about. But I believe that it is necessary to address it. If this post has given you some food for thought as to how you can approach teaching your kids about the human reproductive process, then I think that it would have done its job. Remember, our top priority is our kids and what’s in their best interest.
Do enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad


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