Dear “Doin’ It Well,”
In your recent column you talked about how lube is not only in grocery stores, but it’s also advertised on TV. As a parent, what do I do if my kids ask me a question about what lube is or why they might use it?— Puzzled Parent
Dear Puzzled, thanks for this fabulous question. Talking to kids about sex may feel like a daunting enough task, but when we add the challenge of discussing sexual aids like lube with our kids, it can feel downright impossible. And kids aren’t stupid; they know something is up when their parent changes the channel quickly or speeds up going through the grocery aisle. So how can we know how, when and if to talk to kids about sexual topics when they are brought up?
Sex and Sexuality
When we’re thinking about talking to young children about sex, Doin’ It Well believes it’s important to distinguish between sex and sexuality. When we talk about sex, we’re usually talking about the “what goes where” mechanics of sexual intercourse. Sexuality, on the other hand, is the broad spectrum of behaviors, feelings, physical development, and attitudes that make up our sexual selves. Sexuality is a component of all human beings, even those who are not having sex. Providing information and engaging in appropriate conversations with children about sex and sexuality are important components for their sexual development.
As adults, we also have a responsibility to be appropriate – not only age appropriate but also emotionally. Sometimes adults want to share sexual information with children in an effort to shock or provoke a reaction. Talking to kids about sex should focus on the child’s need for information and their growth, not from the adult’s needs for a confidant. Kids may also test their boundaries because they know that certain information or behavior seems taboo. As adults, we have a responsibility to keep a cool head and maintain responsible boundaries even if the child or teen is pushing those – because we’re the adult!
Being appropriate means we take the child’s questions and concerns very seriously. It can also mean realizing that we might not always be the person they want to talk to, so we can provide access to people, books, or other resources that will give them good information.
Our Sexuality, Our Selves
Having these conversations relies heavily upon our own understanding of sexuality, sexual behavior, and our sexual values. If we haven’t had a chance to build our awareness and understanding, we may feel at a loss. By exploring our own sexual values and increasing our sexual knowledge, we help our conversation with a child, and we also improve our own sex lives by understanding our bodies and selves a little better.
Need to Know Basis
Talking with kids about sex can vary widely. The dialogue may depend on their questions and their age or maturity. Most resources do not speak explicitly with younger children about sexual aids or the mechanics of sexual response. For children entering puberty, understanding the mechanics of sex and sexual response can be helpful in knowing how their bodies work. If a child sees a commercial for KY His + Hers and has questions, their question may just be about what those two people did in bed, not the friction-reducing properties of lube. Your answer may be as simple as “Those two people were having fun together,” or more specifically, “They were kissing each other and touching one another because they like each other.” As for the lube in the supermarket, you could simply say, “It’s kind of like a lotion that people use because it feels good.”
Discussing sexuality with kids and young adults is usually a new task for most of us. As such, it requires practice. Before sitting down to talk to a child about sex, practice with an adult. Just try to say the words you might hope to say, and get some feedback about how you did. You could talk to and find support in other parents or a sex educator, even! And once you have the talk – don’t focus on saying everything perfectly. Ideally, there isn’t just one “sex talk;” it is a lifelong process of learning and dialogue, whether you’re 8 or 80. Keep the communication open, and you’ll have many opportunities to assist the child’s development and understanding of sexuality.
Thanks again to Puzzled for the excellent question! Check us out next week as we attempt to make sure both partners are fully satisfied!
Jo and Ross know that there are no bad questions. Send them to email@example.com