Parents are not sex education experts just because they are parents. ~Pepper Schwartz
With our second teen hanging out with a regular female friend, we feel as though we entering into the ‘fire in the hole!’ phase of his pubescent maturation. Our family continues to have healthy, open, honest, and at times, uncomfortable conversations. You know those ones: What do healthy relationships look like? How does one make healthy choices? How does one express empathy? What is consent and what does it look like? What is self-compassion and how do you cultivate it for ourselves? How do you foster empathy or deal with those that lack it?
To that end, we continue to resource ourselves to be better able to support all of our kids and their individual relational journeys. We found an amazing podcast (and associated blog) from National Public Radio (NPR) called What Your Teen Wished You Knew About Sex Education.
Full disclosure: I have wistfully listened to this broadcast for the third time in as many weeks, and my appreciation for a healthy perspective and open conversation with our kids was prevalent five years ago.
While the entire broadcast was mind-expanding, one elemental piece continues to come back to me: Parent acknowledgement that sex feels good, it is supposed to; so don’t hide that fact from our kids. Ever. The blog also includes a list of highly recommended resources for parents, preteens, and teens, alike.
I recall (with fondness?) many a dinner table conversations with our first preteen. Desiring to be proactive and no replicate those awkward, ill-timed conversations with our parents, we often didn’t wait until he approached us with questions. We worked consciously (and conscientiously) to stay open. We talked openly about relationships (including ours), about sex and consent, about our gay friends and LGBTQ+ issues, feminism, contraception, healthy relationships, and responsible digital device use including the facade of pornography. Our eldest listened and often tried to make connections by rephrasing our words into language with which he was able to connect.
Fast forward four years…
One might wonder whether or not our preemptive approached helped to soften and better prepare our teen for the world of teenhood. Personally, I feel that the jury is still out. And while he often shares that he is practicing safe and healthy sexual behaviours (i.e. condom use), homophobic slurs and gender role biases seems to percolate below and exterior of some who knows everything.
It’s a continual ‘work in progress’ and I am reminded that an old adage is never more truer here: I am a parent for life. Through thick and thin. Through the ugliness and the beauty.
You cannot have sex education without saying that sex is natural and that most people find it pleasurable. ~Bruno Bettelheim, psychologist
Back to Teen #2. While he appears wiser than his thirteen plus years around the sun, there is still a beautiful naivete and wonder that is sacred. I feel that much of the front-loading we racked up for our eldest has paid large dividends for our second teen-becoming. He asks prudent and insightful questions about body hair, growth, and skin care (re: acne). As parents, we plan to continue our family discussions about human sexuality and healthy relationships tinged with cheeky humour and healthy doses of self-deprecation.
NOTE: I have watched the first couple of episodes of Netflix’s Sex Education and cannot recommend it enough for parents of tween, teens, and post-teens. I found it a warm, comfy blanket, if for the simple fact that it reinforces our own healthy approach to sexual education within our family. Worth a watch!