by Jill Whitney LMFT
For many parents, what’s hard about having “The Talk” with kids is saying anything at all. But for others, the problem can be saying too much. Maybe that’s due to nerves, maybe to the enthusiasm that your child is finally asking, or maybe it’s just personal style. Openness and information about sexuality are helpful–unless you get so intense that your child starts to avoid the subject with you.
There are several ways parents can go too far talking about sexuality. Have you ever done any of these?
__ Talked about a sexual topic while taking your kid to school, practice, or a social event
__ Given so much detail about a sexual topic that your kid’s eyes glaze over
__ Asked persistent questions about your kid’s crush
__ Talked or joked about sex in any way in front of your child’s romantic interest
__ Told stories of your own sexual conquests
__ Mentioned what you enjoy in bed
__ Left adult videos or sex toys where kids might see them
0-1: You’re doing fine.
2 or more: You might want to dial it back. Kids need information about sex, but they need it in small doses in the right setting (private, calm, and where the child doesn’t feel trapped). Kids, especially teens and preteens, usually feel very uncomfortable knowing much of anything about their parents’ sex lives. If you’re tempted to spill, remember that less is more.
The key: Birds-and-bees talks should be about meeting kids where they’re at–and keeping parents’ wound-up-ness to a minimum. The better you’re able to contain your own nervous energy, the more effective you’ll be at conveying sexual information and having meaningful conversations.
Jill Whitney is a licensed marriage and family therapist and mom of two twenty-somethings. She’s the author of a forthcoming book on talking with kids about sex and relationships and writes at KeepTheTalkGoing.com, in which this article first appeared.