Holistic sex education in Australian schools is scarce. If education does take place, it’s limited to the bare essentials - how to put a condom on a banana, alongside various scare tactics surrounding the contraction of STI’S, HIV and unplanned pregnancy. In no way am I suggesting that the aforementioned topics are not important, (because they are) but what about all the other stuff? Communication skills (i.e. how to say no and how to say yes), consent, same-sex relationships and attraction, not to mention the fact that sex can be pleasurable and fun aren’t readily discussed. These essential topics are nowhere to be seen in the current curriculum and teenagers are often left to feel their way (pardon the pun!) through the ins and outs of sex and sexuality.
With this in mind, I believe it’s up to us as parents to lead the way and have the ability to sufficiently and confidently educate our children about sex and intimacy. (Aka ‘the talk’.) Easier said than done, right? It’s natural for parents to struggle with how to approach the topic in the ‘right’ way and the truth is, there is no ‘right’ way - you have to do what feels right for you as the parent.
Which leads me to my sex ed 101 top tips:
Deal with your own ‘stuff’ when it comes to your personal experience of sex and sexual identity. If you struggle with confident when it comes to sex, then it’s only natural that you will struggle speaking to (and educating) your kids about it. I recommend investing in some coaching or therapy with a professional in order to let go of any limiting belief systems that you hold onto around the topic… doing so will then enable you to move forward and feel confident in empowering your kids to lead healthy sex lives.
Get with the times. A recent global study revealed that the average age that children are being exposed to porn is 8 years old. On top of this, teenagers are ‘sexting’ each other regularly, and most boys have engaged in first-time penetrative sex by the age of 12. There is no denying that times are changing and with the uprise of social media and internet access comes a whole new generation of kids that are exposed to a lot of sex from a very young age. As parents it’s important that we don’t skirt around these topics. Instead I encourage you to bring the topics to the table. Just opening up the conversation is enough to show your kids that the trusted adult in their life is there when they need to chat.
Be inclusive with ‘the talk’. Don’t assume that your child is only attracted to the opposite gender. 1 in 3 young people will experiment with being attracted to the same sex. This is normal and natural, and by being inclusive and open as parents we are contributing to a more accepting and non-homophobic world. Give your teenager unconditional support and love in whoever they choose to be in relationship with.
This article was published in Juliet's regular Saturday column in the Gold Coast Bulletin 7th March 2015