Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Preparing for an open dialogue with kids about sex

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Preparing for an open dialogue with children about sex

Q: I really admired the letter-writer from a recent column. I'd like to have an open dialogue with my kids about sex, too. They are 5 and 3 now, so while we have some time to build that relationship, I also know the time is coming way sooner than we think. And I realize this is not an "on-off" switch — we need to lay the foundation early.

So how do parents establish that foundation for open dialogue, about anything from sex to drugs to any of those uncomfortable topics?

Open With Kids

Carolyn: (1) Tell them the truth. They will ask so many questions, so much sooner than you think they will. Give them the real answers — for example, use the real names for body parts versus euphemisms or cute-isms — but don't give them the whole five-minute answer.

In fact, give them as little as possible, and see if that suffices. If it doesn't, they'll ask followups. This approach will help you figure out, on the fly, what is age-appropriate for them, because they will be telling you directly whether they understand. (You can also educate yourself with the work of Deborah Roffman. Given the ages of your kids, I suggest But How'd I Get in There in the First Place?: Talking to Your Young Child About Sex.)

(2) Do not punish your kids for asking tough or embarrassing questions, or for expressing opinions that shock you or catch you off-guard. Do not laugh at them, either, when they do or say things about bodies, body image, where babies come from, etc., no matter how cute or funny they're being. You want to create an atmosphere of safety around these topics, or else your kids will fear ridicule and won't tell you the truth. They'll look to others to answer their sex questions.

When kids get into the painful adolescent years, that's when they traditionally go "underground" with all the awkward and embarrassing stuff. The precedent you set early and maintain consistently is your best ally years down the road.

(3) Listen to them. If you're the one doing all the talking, you'll lose their attention. You can even catch yourself mid-lecture: "Wait — before I go on. What do you think the answer is here?" Let them tell you what blanks you need to fill in.

Anonymous: Mind if I chime in here too? One thing my husband and I also did is to respect each other so they knew they had a safe environment. We disagreed but calmly. With our bodies, we were open with affection but discreet. We didn't hide our bodies but weren't sexual. We let them make choices and helped them when they failed, especially helping them to see why they failed or made bad choices. We didn't coddle them and we did have boundaries, but it was their life to live inside those age-appropriate boundaries. We have grown, healthy kids now who are very open with us.

Carolyn: Great stuff, thanks — though I might throw an "overtly" in front of "sexual," since sexuality isn't the problem, in-your-face sexuality is. But that's a quibble.

Comments
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

SHORTS: Art and Short Film Mini-FestA fundraiser for the [email protected] brings an Art and Short Film Mini-Fest to the studio tonight. There will be four short films, an exhibit of artwork by Corinne Leavengood and photography by Diana Lucas Leavengood. P...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita FestivalThis year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflower...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

1 Tibetan Monks’ Mandala: As part of a Sacred Art Tour, eight Dalai Lama-sanctioned monks from India will be at the Florida CraftArt Galleries for a week to create a sand mandala of the Green Tara, a female representation of the Buddha of Compassion....
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since."Back in the ’80s, I had a couple of songs that kind of fell on deaf ears. I said, Well, I gu...
Published: 05/23/18

Tell Me About It: Can she trust her new beau not to cheat?

Q: Is it really true that "once a cheater always a cheater," even when the cheater didn’t cheat on you?A few years ago, I left my husband after I found out he was a serial cheater. We are now divorced. I have been seeing someone new, and he seems lik...
Published: 05/22/18
Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

No matter what Cress Williams does the rest of his acting career, he’ll always be remembered as the first to play Black Lightning.The 47-year-old actor with roles on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night Lights is now that face of a DC comics franchise...
Published: 05/22/18

Tell Me About It: She has little sympathy for troubled sister

She has little sympathy for troubled sister"target="_blank">She has little sympathy for troubled sisterQ: My mom died when I was 10 and my sister, "Abby," was 6. My dad did the best he could but life was hard. I tried to make it up to him by helping...
Published: 05/22/18
Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Despite Walt Disney's wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant

Well, you did it millennials. As of this month, every sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom now serves alcohol. It was a big deal back in 2012 when the world’s most visited theme park broke with Uncle Walt’s mandate to keep alcohol ou...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Tell Me About It: Divorce is only option with abusive wife

Divorce is only option with abusive wife"target="_blank">Divorce is only option with abusive wifeQ: My wife and I have what looks on paper like a great relationship. My problem is I hate the way my wife treats me.I say something she disagrees with, ...
Published: 05/21/18