The importance of talking to your children about sexual health: part one
Parenting is difficult enough without even considered the implications of sexual health and gender equality, but these topics are important and must be discussed. Our role as parents is to aptly inform and prepare our children to succeed and cope with potential difficulties, including self confidence and care, body confidence, relationships, and the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour by or towards them.
Join me in exploring the importance of educating our children on sexual health. This is a four-part series where we’ll look at the whys, why-nots, the difficulties, and the benefits of parent-led sexual health education for our children.
Parenting is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. From handling tantrums, toilet training or the teenage years, at one point or another we all need support in our parenting journeys.
One of the most arguably difficult parts of parenting is discussing sexual health with our children. Many of us don’t bother doing it at all. This happens for many reasons: it’s awkward or uncomfortable, we just plain don’t know the answers, we feel ashamed when talking about taboo topics or feel like it’s socially or culturally unacceptable to discuss these things. You might actually avoid sexual health conversations for multiple reasons, including those which aren’t listed here. Whatever the reason, it’s important to address that discussing sexual health, sexuality and gender-equality with your children is a crucial step in raising them. In fact, by not discussing it with your children, you might be doing more harm than good. The umbrella of sexual health includes anatomy, reproduction, menstruation, consent, contraception, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, gender roles and more.
It’s easy to tell kids not to do things that we’re uncomfortable about.
‘Don’t hang around with that crowd.’
‘Don’t have sex (before marriage).’
‘Don’t get pregnant.’
‘Don’t do this.’
‘Don’t do that.’
We expect our kids to listen and abide by our rules, but if we don’t give them more information, we leave them confused and wanting to know more. Children push boundaries because it’s natural to want a reaction. They need us to make them feel safe and secure. Our children take comfort in knowing that we know what is best for their well-being, that we genuinely want to do right by them. And we genuinely do. But that doesn’t make having awkward conversations any easier.
Of course we want to protect our children. We want to keep them safe, sheltered from the knowledge of war, pain, and all the suffering in the world. We want to shield them from crime, abuse, bullying, violence, and anything else that can harm them. So why don’t we properly equip our children to deal with all of life’s hardships? Because it’s hard. It’s horrible to have to face that our children might have to deal with hardships someday. Broken hearts, being used, being abused, having difficult relationships, difficult jobs, and the list goes on and on.
It’s not easy to discuss the grim realities that life can involve. But if we don’t properly prepare our children for dealing with them, we are essentially sending them out onto the battlefield unprepared and unarmed. This is quite possibly one of the worst things you can do as a parent.
Check back tomorrow for part two, where I’ll dive in to the importance of discussing sexual health with your children.
**Rape culture can impact anyone, regardless of gender but for the purpose of this article on raising children, I’m generally referring to boys contributing to a culture which normalises abuse towards women or girls.