Friday, 29 October 2010

Talking About Sex With Your Kids

Author: KimChell Haskell

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I believe many kids seek a mature and adult-like relationship because they lack some form of support, connection, and or attention. Having sex has very real consequences both physically and emotionally. The emotions that come from having sex can be heavy and overwhelming for someone too young; they can be even for someone older who has sexual experience. Confusion often sets in on them, their priorities shift, and their lives become muddled.
You'll notice that their attention shifts from themselves, their lives, from their dreams and aspirations to their relationship. You'll see them rob themselves of the simple joys of just being and experiencing all the activities that encompass adolescence; an important aspect of their childhood. Sex often carries with it feelings of intense vulnerability, insecurity, an indescribable hollowed emptiness, and a severe lack of focus on anything outside of their relationship.
I believe that there is a long and extensive list of potential reasons why kids engage in sexual activity at a young age and I certainly will not be able to cover all of them in this article but I will go over a few.
When kids see sex as a knuckle-bumping, high-five worthy experience their focus shifts just as quickly as their bodies do during puberty. They may see these behaviors from people close to them within the home, a relative, on television, from a friend or a family member of a friend. You will never know everything your kid is exposed to or by whom. This kind of mentality teaches them that sex is cool, and once experienced it will make them even cooler. It makes a joke and a mockery out of the sexual experience, one that is not funny at any age and is certainly no way to begin their sexual experience.
We all remember being adolescents and wanting to be with our friends, hanging out, playing outside and just being a kid. This is fine... I'm not finding fault with that. But if you're noticing that your kid would always rather be with his girlfriend, friends, or at work rather than in your home with their family you may have a situation brewing that's worth examining.
Many kids seek out their friends/boyfriends over their family because they feel a greater acceptance of who and how they are from their peer groups and therefore they feel more relaxed around them. They may feel their peers/girlfriend have a greater respect for their thoughts, words, and actions than their family does. Their friends never yell at or demean their already fragile self-esteem so there's an immediate comfort with their friends or boyfriend if there is a lot of yelling in their household. Rather you agree with these statements or not, if this is their perspective... then this is their experience.
Kids are always thinking... all of the time. You may think they're fine, you've got good kids, you think they'd come to you, they'd tell you if they were engaging in or even thinking about having sex, but this isn't always the case. Did you go to your parents before you started having sex? Did you let your parents know that you were thinking about having sex? If you were like the majority of adolescent and teenagers I'm guessing that you did not. It may have been embarrassing for you to bring up such a topic. Maybe you were afraid you'd get in trouble, or maybe you thought they'd keep you from your girlfriend or other friends. Chances are better than not your kid has the same fears, concerns, and apprehensions.
It is not their job to bring up the difficult subjects... it's yours... and it's expected of you. And as hard as the subject matter may be, as awkward and or uncomfortable as you might feel you simply need to suck it up, and get the conversation rolling.
Every child that's in my life hears a series of questions from me almost every time I see them. The questions are:
* You drinking?
* You smoking?
* You doing any drugs?
* You got a boyfriend?
* A girlfriend?
* Your friends drinking, smoking, doing any drugs?
* Your friends have boyfriends/girlfriends?
I started when the kids were young, around 2-3 years old. They would answer "no" to each question all the while thinking I was silly as they laughed and giggled. But over the years the answers changed. For some their friends were experimenting with cigarette smoking at 9, another had a friend who was offered a sucker at school with ecstasy (allegedly) on it at 10, other kids were drinking and some parents were buying it at 13-14 years old.
I ask so that I can get use to "asking the questions I want the answers to" and so the questions are not an uncomfortable surprise for them. I want to know if they're doing any of these things, if their friends are, what they think of it, are they interested in trying it, why? Depending on their answers I can easily add more specific questions.
It doesn't matter when or how you start the conversations it only matters that you start. Ever hear, "better late than never?" That applies here as well!
Many kids, especially young girls, who for whatever reason are without a father figure in their life may seek the love, attention, affection, and approval they lack from not having that parental relationship in a physical relationship.
Kids that feel unaccepted and generally unhappy with themselves may seek acceptance from a group you don't feel fits the personality of the kid you know. Often time this group is older, more mature, and at a place in their lives when they're ready for certain things in a relationship (and otherwise) at 16-17-18 than say your 11-13 year old simply is not.
If self esteem is an over shadowing issue I suggest letting them know that you understand there's a natural desire to explore their bodies and experience the pleasurable experience of sex but affirm to them that they are extremely valuable. I suggest elaborating on this in a way that is applicable specifically towards the child in your life. For example, mention specific examples of their kind nature, their generous spirit, or the creative way they do something.
Point out the things they may think no one else notices about them. For example, share with them how adorable it is that her teddy bears are a collection of only the squishiest and the softest bears. Make him aware of how cute it is that he has to stir his ice cream before he eats it or how funny it is that he waits until everyone else is finished with their treat before he'll eat his in front of them... knowing they all want more.
Let them know that you would like all of their sexual experiences to not only be experienced at a time in their life when they can handle the emotional repercussions of a sexual experience but that you would like it to be with someone who truly knows them, who respects the individual that they are, and who is considerate of them.
Sex is an intensely emotional experience that can bring about feelings of extreme vulnerability. You may notice that these feelings can distract your child from goals they may have had prior to their sexual experience. If you see college aspirations, day-dreams of profession sports, and international travel being replaced with financial worries, and how to support a family, you've likely got a kid that's becoming heavy involved in a very adult-like relationship.
My other suggestion is to help them see their life in a different way. For example, if they use to dream of sports you could begin to tell them how you picture them in the uniform of their favorite team, playing for their favorite college, or that you always love watching him during his games. If their college aspirations are being replaced with other thoughts then start taking them for campus tours, and meeting with every department that might catch their interest. Introduce them to the study abroad programs and all the places they can choose to take their life experience. These things help them to visualize the potential and possibilities their life holds.
I believe that life is meant to be experienced; that you are here to continuously discover new aspects of your self and live your life to the fullest extent of your desires and abilities. Life may be hindered and your experiences hampered if you rush past the years or bring about the many responsibilities and potential obligations of a premature sexual relationship before you have had a chance to experience and develop your self outside of your adolescence and teenage self.
It's NEVER too late to start talking with your kids about sex. Your conversations may not be met with gratitude at first and that's okay; if the roles were reversed you'd probably be giving a similar... less than welcome response. They're nervous, uncomfortable, and embarrassed.
They may be afraid of disappointing you. Rather you see it or not most kids have a great desire to please their parents and will keep their less than flattering behaviors out of sight to avoid hurting you. One of the key aspects of your job is to educate them with everything you know. This kind of protective education lets them know the potential repercussions of their actions. These are not one time conversations... they are ongoing.
Rather they have started having sex or not they still deserve to be educated and sex still needs to be an ongoing topic of conversation. You don't need to know all the intimate details if they are having sex. But by continuing to make it a topic of conversation they'll know they haven't been outcast and ostracized and that they have your support, your input, and your guidance.
I hope this article helps make talking with the child in your life about this seemingly difficult topic a little easier.

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