By: A Philadelphia High School Student
I will always remember the first time my mom talked to me about sex.
I was in fifth grade. One day in health class we watched a video about sex. That night at dinner, I told my mom about my day, as I did every day. When I got to the part about watching a video about erections, my mom listened to me patiently. She then gave me a long speech about sex.
She told me everything she thought I needed to know at that age – from how sex should be safe and consensual to how I should be educated about sex and comfortable discussing it with my partner before initiating anything. She said how important it is to get tested repeatedly for sexually transmitted infections, and how there is more than one kind of sex. She said she wanted me to feel comfortable talking to her about the topic as I got older.
I listened carefully, even though I was uncomfortable hearing some of the things she shared. I appreciated how open my mom was about such a personal subject. I was relieved by how understanding and knowledgeable she was. Ever since that day, my mom and I have maintained an open and honest dialogue on the topic of sex.
Now, I have a confession: This never happened. My mom and I have never talked about sex. What I’ve learned about sex has been from school, my peers, and my own research.
Don’t get me wrong; my mom and I are pretty close. But, like a lot of aspects of her parenting, she is pretty hands-off. She prefers to address my questions if I ask them. Since I have not yet asked her about sex, she has not taken the initiative to explain it to me. Instead, she trusts me to seek out information that I need on my own.
I know it is up to each parent to decide whether or not to discuss sex with their children. Yet, I feel strongly that this information should be made available to every kid in some way. Sex education is just so important that no social taboo should keep kids from accessing it.
I do not think enough of our school curriculum is devoted to sexual health. In addition to having comprehensive sex education in school, I hope that more parents and caregivers will talk openly about sex at home. The story I opened with is what I wish had happened between my mom and I. I wish that for every kid.
I also asked a handful of my friends if they had spoken to their parents about sex. Each person I asked said that they had either not discussed it, or that they had discussed it, but only once. For those who had discussed it, most described the experience as mostly negative. I was sad to learn this, but I was hardly surprised. I have yet to comprehend the reason for it, but it seems to me that parents are not talking.
Before starting this conversation with your kids, know that there are resources to guide you in anticipating your kids’ needs and for answering your kids’ questions. Have an open mind, remain calm and patient, and realize that your child may have different expectations and attitudes towards sex than yourself. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say so and explore this new topic together. If you are not comfortable talking, identify other people in your child’s life that they can turn to if questions come up.
I challenge parents to change the environment and stigma around talking about sex and sexual health. Let’s get parents TALKING!