The societal message about sex and intimacy is still very negative and many children don’t learn that sex is fun, pleasurable and normal. Sex education in the United States is sub-par, with no standardized curriculum, so we can’t rely on our education system to do this for us. It’s up to parents and caretakers to step up and give an accurate, real life explanation of sex.
But first, we all need to re-examine what we’ve been told about sex and the gender norms that play into it. In individual and couple’s therapy, we explore the role sex and intimacy play in one’s life. We foster unconditional self-acceptance. Your sexuality and sexual desires are part of you! Accepting yourself for being a living, breathing human who seeks pleasure, while also learning to identify your thought patterns and beliefs. What we internalize about sex throughout our lives shapes our perceptions about what healthy intimacy looks like. Exploring those perceptions can help you talk about intimacy in a more positive, self-affirming way to your kids.
The tricky part is explaining what happened in an age appropriate way. Let’s assume your child is old enough to understand what sex and partnerships are. Sex is part of being in a relationship and it’s one way to show love, be intimate, get pleasure and have fun together. The technicalities of sex and how it happens aren’t the only important parts to talk about. Don’t forget to talk about consent, emphasizing that when adults have sex, it should be because both of them want to. When people want to have sex, they must make sure they are happy and comfortable with each other.
Be mindful- your child will internalize your discomfort through non-verbal body language and expressions, so practicing before hand with your partner or in front of a mirror is not a bad idea. Remind your child that he/she can come to you with any questions and stay positive- you want your child to come to you for support when they are ready to have sex in the future. Talking about sex doesn’t have to be scary , weird or awkward. You control how this goes! Stay honest, open and affirming- you’ll be fine.