A frequent question I get from parents is, "When should I start teaching my kids about sex?" (The short answer is NOW!) The second most frequent question is HOW?
One of my top three strategies is to use teachable moments. Parents can and should use a variety of teachable moments to give out well grounded wisdom about sex, love, and relationships. Learning about these issues is a life-long task so you need to get started. What's a teachable moment? Here are three that are common in families with middle schoolers.
- Teachable Moment #1: Your daughter wants to wear a top to school that you think is too revealing. She thinks it's no big deal. What to do? Use this teachable moment to teach her that it may be no big deal to her but it is against dress code and could very well be a big deal to a boy who sits next to her in math class. It's got to be difficult to study and learn when your eyes keep landing on the exposed belly, bottom, or breasts of the girl sitting in front of you. Boy's brains are being bathed in increasing amounts of testosterone (testosterone increases 20-fold in the teen years) and their bodies respond with unpredictable erections and spontaneous thoughts about sex. Now, it's not our job as girls and women to control the sex thoughts of the boys and men in the world. It is, however, an expectation and a courtesy that girls and women follow the school guidelines to cover bellies, butts, and breasts when in a setting where learning and work are the priority. Conduct this frank conversation with your daughter.
- Teachable Moment #2: You hear talk from other mothers about sex acts being performed in the school rest room. This is a prime opportunity for you to relay the story you heard to your daughter and explain to her what these sex acts are (If you are hearing it through the mom network, chances are good that your daughter is hearing about it through the kid network.). While you're at it, tell your daughter what you think of these sex acts in the middle school population. This is your opportunity to instill values around sex and sexual expression. (If you cannot imagine saying these things to your daughter please contact me to set up or attend one of my Growing up Female, Middle School events - I will cover the ground for you.)
- Teachable Moment #3: Your sister and brother-in-law have just announced they are getting a divorce. These are sad and difficult moments in family life. Use the opportunity to help your daughter understand that relationships take a lot of work, are complicated, and change over time. Even people who seem to love each other sometimes cannot make a relationship work, no matter how hard they try. You can use this teachable moment to help your daughter learn some essential relationships skills. In addition, talk to her about teen dating; tell her what you think about teen relationships, what's appropriate what's realistic, etc.