Sunday, October 4, 2015

Atheist Parenting: Talking About Sex

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If you have kids you already know that sex education does not start when they are teenagers, so let's not kid ourselves by thinking that sexuality begins with puberty. Human beings are sexual beings, and that is good. We have all experienced periods of our childhoods where some level of eroticism was at play whether we understood that at the time or not. You have your own childhood stories, I have mine, and our children will have theirs. As more enlightened parents, we can facilitate healthier stories for our kids because we know that our kids are getting an education on sex and sexuality beginning at their very first day.

As infants and toddlers, our beloved little ones start out exploring everything, including their own wondrous bodies, with simple curiosity. Many of our ancestors were unfortunate enough to be a part of some of the past generations that treated normal, healthy self-exploration with shame, embarrassment, or parents' own discomfort. Imagine all of those generations of adults living with confusion and shame and misinformation about their own body. These days we know that our own discomfort can be transferred to our children and we work hard and deliberately to be aware of our own issues and to work through them.

Without making assumptions about anyone except for myself, I consider it a healthy, mature, and loving thing to do to consciously and deliberately address internal issues that keep one bunged up inside. From sexuality to anxiety to anger issues, we now have access to internal and external modes of treatment and education to actively improve our ways of dealing with that frisson point between ourselves and the rest of the world. Nearly every adult has access to good interventions for our own issues and we need to gratefully and optimistically grab hold of those healthy interventions. And why? So as to not pass those inherited or circumstantial issues on to our beloved offspring. I did it; it took me years. But I'm grateful to not pass along the stuff that I was carrying, especially those messages about sexuality and sin and sluts.

If I can do it, so can anyone.

Our children and their beautiful, functional bodies will serve them for their entire lives; let's help them to feel healthy and happy being inside of that remarkable body. Most of us know the obvious: being sexual is perfectly normal and healthy. Our confused, over-marketed culture works so hard to pass along very weird, skewed, and messed up messages about body image, sexuality, genders...let's make our homes a haven of loving acceptance, accurate information, and healthy messages about the sexual part of all of our beings.

Let's Talk to the Kids

I might have this wrong, but it looks to me like this new generation of parents are far more informed and healthy about sexuality than past generations. Loving acceptance of a range of sexuality expression and identity and gender is such a freeing gift to give to this and future generations. I'm delighted when I see the kids coming up these days with such love and understanding. Perhaps my supposed knowledge is unnecessary. 
  • Keep communication open and positive from the earliest days of your child's life about sexuality, sexual feelings, and their bodies. Our children look to us and adopt our tone.
  • Talk about it. The media portrays both males and females in stereotypical, no-win, and skewed ways. Don't allow these messages to go unchallenged.
  • Smile and let your children know that their choice and identity is lovable and loving and welcome.
  • Think about gender roles and rules and be willing to adjust your assumptions for the good of our children.
Stop the presses. 
This post is sounding like obvious stuff.
You know what? You know what to do:
  • Be loving and genuine.
  • Be genuinely informative at your child's level and interest.
  • Be honest.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Know that sexuality is complex, far too complex to have black and white rules governing it. 
  • Discussions of ethical, equal, and compassionate treatment of others is a precursor to all relationship conversation.
  • Human relationships require respect and self-awareness to be at their healthiest.
  • Each relationship is unique.
  • Compassionate conversations during the teen years are possible when conversations are open and warm.
  • Maintain respect and privacy at levels comfortable and necessary for your child's sensibilities.
Openness and honesty and transmission of information is vital. As a kid and a teen I got such incorrect information...and absolutely no parental conversation. In this home we will discuss sexuality in a continuum of conversations about interpersonal interaction, individual identity, and global awareness. Conversations of sex will contain no shame or guilt. Privacy, yes. Hidden and shameful, no.

We have had the conversations that I wish someone could and would have had with me when I needed the information; if I had had these conversations perhaps I would have understood things better. My life path would have been so different. The conversations we have will probably not keep my children virgins; that is not the goal of our talks. But my kids will be more confident, safe, and respectful than I was. Fear will not be used as birth control for my kids. Shame will not be associated with burgeoning sexuality. Guilt will not follow sexual activity. Instead, knowledge will serve.  As well as condoms, all available resources, and all other appropriate interventions. 

I'm John and I approve this image.
Look, I don't want my kids to run out and have sex, but with the knowledge and respect for sex that they now have, I have been very impressed both with their way of approaching the subject and with their choices. It seems to me that the teenagers in this generation are very accepting of a vast continuum of sexual identity and exploration; it's amazing. I'm not suggesting that the honest conversations about sexuality are always easy for me with my kids in their teens; my mind buzzes half of the time, but I'm grateful for their openness, for their strong desire to be ethical people, and for their respect for self and others. And I'm learning alot.

If I can do this, so can you.

What do you think?

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1 comment:

  1. Great post -- I agree with you though it's still hard to remember all those things at times. I want to be as open and direct with my kids as possible. The best way I've found to do that is to keep my "teacher poker face" on when they ask me the hard questions. =-)


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