Their future happiness depends on it!
When I was 11-years old, just halfway through the 6th grade, I charged through the front door of our suburban home and up to my mother doing dishes at the sink.
"Mom," I asked, "What is oral sex?"
A boy used those words in my Sex Ed class that afternoon and I had been confused ever since. I knew what sex was, but I couldn't understand what the mouth had to do with something that happened between a penis and a vagina.
My mother responded, "It's when one person puts their mouth on the other person's genitals."
"What?!" I screamed in horror. Why would someone do that? That's where pee comes out.
"Do you and Dad do that?" I asked.
"Yes," she stated, calmly.
I ran sobbing into my bedroom never to bring up the subject of oral sex (much less intercourse) ever, ever again.
We're all grown up. Now it's our turn to talk to our own kids about sex...
I am 32 now, with my own daughter...and I think about that conversation from my youth and how things could have gone differently.
If I had grown up with a more complete picture of sex up to that point, would I have felt less horrified that day?
As a sexually liberated woman now, I'm not interested in limiting the description of sex to only a procreative act between a penis and a vagina. Same-sex marriage and internet porn have made this description of sex outdated and incomplete.
So how should I talk to my daughter about sexuality in this changing, modern world?
It turns out — in the same way that we repeatedly discuss any other important life issue with our kids! Conversations about sex should happen over and over again. The "sex talk" is not a single conversation, but rather, an ongoing dialog throughout our children's lives.
Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer says, "Kids listen to how we say things almost more than what we actually say."
It's more important that you create an environment where talking about sex is OK than it is saying everything perfectly.
When your child brings up a sexual question, take a moment to center yourself and find out how your child feels about the topic first. Conversations about sexuality are a great opportunity for education, but an even better opportunity to help your kids work through their confused thoughts and conflicted feelings about sex.
As a sex author and coach, I've discovered there are three essential things we absolutely MUST say to our children about sex to lay a healthy sexual foundation for the rest of their lives:
1. Sex is something you first discover with yourself
Sex begins with a discovery of arousal in our own body that is normal, healthy and fun. Our bodies are designed to experience pleasure in many different ways. As we discover our bodies, through touch and fantasy, we create a healthy relationship with our own sexual energy. Sex requires maturity to share it with another person, so it's important to only explore sexuality with ourselves until we feel emotionally ready (not just physically aroused).
2. The word "sex" means the act of giving and receiving pleasure with another person, usually involving the genitals, but not always
Sex takes different forms for different people, and we get to discover what sexual expression is for us. Sex is one of the ways we can connect deeply with other people. Sex is an exchange of sexual energy between consenting adults and can happen with or without clothing, touching, kissing, or even involving the genitals.
3. The most important thing about sex is respecting boundaries — your own, and others'
We decide who we share our body with. If we don't want to touch someone (or be touched by them) it's OK to politely yet firmly say, "No."
Before we have sex, it's important to first gain solid confidence in our ability to say "No" to what we don't want, and "Yes" to what we do. If we can respect the boundaries of ourselves and others, we'll always feel good about our sexual experiences.
Respecting boundaries also means using condoms to protect against infection and unplanned pregnancy.
Imagine a world where talking with our kids about sex in a comprehensive way was totally normal.
What kind of decisions would they make? What kind of lives would they lead?
HealthyChildren.org teaches us that everyday life offers us "teachable moments" where we can talk to our kids about sex. Are you having conversations with your kids that will help them lead sexually empowered lives? All it takes is the courage to communicate with them, hear their feelings and tell them the truth. Our children's happiness and health depends on it.
I know I want my daughter growing up in a sexually healthy world. I'm sure you want the same for your kids, too. So let's commit to talking to our children about sex ... one sexually empowered conversation at a time.
Lauren Brim works with savvy women who are committed to having it all in work, family and sex. She is the author of the runaway hit, The New Rules of Sex, available online. Pick up your copy today!