There are some things you just don’t want to talk to your kids about.
Porn on the internet. What they’re learning about sex from their friends. Why private parts need to stay private.
But there’s no choice. You HAVE to talk about those things.
Because your kids will learn about sex eventually. They’ll have sex eventually. And their lives will be so much better if they’ve been informed by YOU rather than their peers.
So how do you do it?
You prepare yourself. You learn how and when to talk to your kids about sex, and you learn what you should be discussing with them. You get informed so that it’s easy and natural to have those conversations when opportunities arise.
And this week’s YBTV interview will help you do it.
Body safety expert and educator Emily Gaudreau is host of the popular podcast “How to Raise a Maverick.” She helps parents talk to their kids about staying safe.
Demonizing sex doesn’t work. Instead, teach your child anatomically correct language. Talk about sex together. Discuss the depictions of sexual violence or abusive relationships in the media. And get over your own hang-ups. These might be the most important conversations you ever have with your kids.
What You’ll Learn
We really have to shift gears, get over our sexual hang-ups, and talk about sexuality like it’s breakfast cereal.”
Parents worry about their children.
There’s so much to worry about. Pesticides in food. Toxins in the environment. Sexual predators in the neighborhood. School shootings.
But Emily Gaudreau wants to reassure you.
“Right now, in the United States, this is the safest time since the 1960s,” she says. Our children are less at risk of being victims of violent crimes or horrific accidents than ever before. Yet many parents haven’t got the message. They’re raising their children in a bubble, hoping to keep them safe, when the REAL threat comes from inside.
“Depression and suicide are the biggest things that are affecting our kids now,” Emily says. Social media is a factor, but overly protecting kids also plays a part. Kids aren’t being prepared to face the realities of the world.
That’s why Emily advocates what she calls “maverick parenting.”
A Maverick parent is like the antithesis of a helicopter parent. They go, ‘This is what’s out there. The kids are going to experience it. Let’s get them ready.'”
The three pillars of maverick parenting are love, ethics, and self-sufficiency. It’s about getting “these kids out there to do things on their own,” Emily says.
And one of the things EVERY kid is going to eventually face is the reality of sex.
When to Start Talking about Sex
The average teen has sex at age 17. The average age a kid encounters porn for the first time is 12. One in 10 children under the age of 18 has been sexually abused, usually by someone they know and trust.
Sex is a topic that’s non-negotiable. And we need to start talking about it NOW.
“You have to teach yourself to change how you speak to your kids from Day 1,” Emily says.
Consent is one of the easiest concepts to start teaching at an early age.
Sex educator Deanne Carson made headlines in May 2018 by recommending that parents ask a baby for permission to change their diaper. Not because the baby could actually give consent, but rather because it trains the child to expect that an adult would ask permission before touching them in a private place.
Does that seem like a lot of unnecessary faff over nothing?
Maybe so, but someday that baby will be a teenager. And someday that teenager will be at a party where things are going on that you, as a parent, can’t control. That’s when you want to know that your child has a strong sense of personal boundaries and the ability to say no to unwanted touch.
When these kids come into our lives, we [parents] have been free spirits and doing and saying whatever we want. And we really have to shift gears, get over our sexual hang-ups, and talk about sexuality like it’s breakfast cereal. That means casual and often.”
Some parents worry that talking about sex at a young age will encourage children to sexually experiment. But the research doesn’t bear that out.
“The research shows that that in other countries, where they do talk about sex casually, [kids] wait longer to have intercourse, and they do it with long-term partners.”
Don’t Have The Sex Talk
It’s easier to broach these topics when your kids are small and it’s just another anatomy or health lesson.
It’s harder when your kids are hitting puberty and the gross-out factor is high.
“You’ve got two different shock factors,” Emily says. “The highest shock factor is yourself. You need to realize that your kids are not freaked out—YOU are freaked out.”
The good news is that you don’t have to have the sex talk. “I don’t know about you,” Emily says, “but I still remember the sex talk. I don’t think anybody of my generation can forget. And trust me, it ALWAYS flops.”
For older kids, sit down and watch TV with them. If you see a situation on screen, talk about it in a casual and nonjudgmental way. “You don’t need to go into a diatribe about it. Nobody wants to be lectured about sex,” Emily says. “Try not to make it weird.”
You don’t want to present sex as a bad thing. It’s how babies are made. It’s how loving partners connect with each other. “It is one of the coolest things about being a human.”
Keeping Privates Private
If your daughter has grown up boogieing to Beyoncé, she may wonder why she can’t shake her booty in super-short shorts. If Queen Bey can do it, why can’t she?
Singers like Beyoncé (and Madonna before her) present a mixed message for kids. Kids need to know that their “bodies are private because they’re wicked special.” We don’t share special things with just anyone. We keep them close and only share them with “people we trust, know, and like.”
So talk to your kids about body safety.
Body safety is sexual abuse prevention.”
“You have to start from a very early age talking about people not touching their private parts,” which is defined as the area covered by their swimsuit. Explain to your children that “showing your private parts is an invitation for touch, and that is something that is private for you. You want to save that for somebody special.”
But what if your child is a teenager and won’t listen to you?
“If they want to wear their short shorts, that’s not in your house, it’s not under your roof, and that’s not with your money.”
You can also point out other people who are wearing skimpy outfits and talk about how it makes you feel. Having the conversation about someone else keeps your teen from feeling defensive.
Abuse-Proofing Your Child
Between 10 and 30% of teens have experienced an abusive relationship of some kind. How do you teach your teen to accept nothing less than a healthy relationship?
It goes back to those casual conversations. While watching TV together, comment on the relationship dynamics you see. It could be as simple as saying, “If anybody ever treats you that way, that’s wrong.”
“This is a really difficult thing that this generation is dealing with—that we didn’t have to as much—is they watch sexual violence on the internet on a regular basis,” Emily says. “At the age of 12, your child is watching and has seen violent pornography.”
She urges parents to “name what is happening in those films and say, ‘This is not normal. This is entertainment that has been exaggerated to get you addicted.'”
Anatomically Correct Language
As an educator, Emily works to “help parents get over their own hangups” so that they can talk to their kids about sex.
“We’ve got to get over our prudish nature and address these things straight out,” she says.
One of her main topics is anatomy.
We often use the term vagina to refer to everything down there, but “when you talk about your genitalia, you are talking about your vulva, your labia, your clitoris,” too.
Don’t leave the anatomy lesson to sex ed. Talk to girls about how their bodies respond. Just because they have an automatic erotic response doesn’t mean they’re inviting something to happen.
“A lot of the education that I’m doing—teaching parents how to talk to their kids—is really helping the parents,” she says. Many are realizing they were abused as children.
So educate yourself. Teach yourself what you need to teach your kids.
Emily’s website can help. She offers free downloads, including a free cheat sheet that will you prevent child sexual abuse, “that will make you 99% more on top of this.” Also be sure to check out her “How to Raise a Maverick podcast.”
Then spread the word to fellow parents. Help them have the conversations you’ve learned to have with your kids.
Jump to Topics of Interest
03:14 The challenges facing our children
04:35 Maverick parenting
05:36 Should kids stay at home longer?
07:43 Teaching children about consent
08:30 Talking about sexuality like it’s breakfast cereal
09:53 Broaching the sex conversation with a preteen
13:47 Body safety for kids
15:45 Body safety for teens
18:36 Helping kids identify unhealthy relationships
19:04 How porn is impacting our kids
21:46 Emily’s work as an educator
22:35 Anatomically correct language
24:11 The female sexual response
About Emily Gaudreau
Emily is a parenting coach and sexual abuse prevention educator. She’s a mother of four, and she raises her kids to be mavericks, which she defines as kids with work ethic, grit, and empathy. She’s also the host of the podcast “How to Raise a Maverick.” Get your free 5-Step Plan Preventing Sex Abuse on Kids of All Ages.