Standing in my kitchen, one of my daughters walks in and asks, “Mummy, what is sex?” I knew exactly what she was asking me, but I was too embarrassed to answer. Instead, I said sex is the question on a form asking if you are a ‘male’ or ‘female’. She believed me.
Since then, I have wondered why was I embarrassed to answer her correctly. I don’t know. But, what I know is, I was not ready to talk sex with a six-year-old or an eight-year-old. My husband John and I have always been open with our daughters about topics like where babies come from and how they are delivered. Also, when my daughters started school, we felt they were old enough to stop using cute names for their vagina – so now, we use the ‘correct’ names for these things. So really we are not the kind of parents who shy away from having a serious discussion with their children.
As a mum of girls, I don’t want my daughters to be naïve about some issues. Also, I don’t want to wait until something goes wrong before having some conversations with them. Recently, the question of whether to broach a sex conversation with my older daughter was resurrected after I read children as young as seven are caught sexting at school.
Every day, our kids are bombarded with images on social media and television that passes as innocent but if you look deeper, it has some sexual undertone. For me, as sad as this is: I have stopped finger wagging at the media, it is not going to change anything. Even if I shield my children from seeing such images, the question is for how long?
I have accepted that the world we now live in is different from the one I grew up in. This means I must change the way I parent in order to protect and educate my daughters. And one of the ways I have had to change my parenting style is learning to have honest but uncomfortable conversations them.
I feel having these conversations will instil in them right from wrong. It will convey the message that it is not okay for them to copy that singer who chooses to grind and twerk on TV. This will mean when I am not there (hopefully) they will not be grinding and twerking in a nightclub. You get the gist … As small minded as this example may seem to some.
If I know this, then why did I not tell my daughter what sex is? I guess my instinct kicked in. Maybe my daughters are not mature enough to understand.
However, when the time is right, I want to be the one who explains sex to them and not some random friend who shows them hardcore porn on a phone. (And yes, this is the era we live in. Take it or leave it – hardcore porn is freely available on the internet.) I want my daughters to know that what they see in porn is not the way sex really is. I want my daughters to understand that sex is to be enjoyed and with someone you love – not something to be ashamed of.
My question is, how do we as parents have sex conversations with our children without feeling embarrassed? At what age do we start to have the sex conversation? Is it when they ask? Is it when they start their period? Or is it when they are given their first mobile phone?
Also, how do we teach them that when they start to have sex and their partner wants to do something they don’t feel comfortable doing that they have the confidence to say ‘No’.
One thing I am certain of is, I will not be leaving sex education to the school just because I am too embarrassed to have the conversation with my daughters.