Sex Positive Parenting
Everywhere you look online, you will find the phrase ‘sex positive’. What does this mean and how can a parent instill sex positive thinking in their children.
Sex positive is the ideology that sexuality is not taboo. Up until now, sexuality, gender, and even the act of having sex has been topics too racy to discuss in public. And most parents dread any conversation with their children about sexuality. It does not have to be a scary thing.
Before, parenting around sexual topics was limited to the ‘birds and the bees’ conversation and the ‘what now’ conversations with young girls when they begin their menses. Sex Positive parenting proposes that sexuality should be an ongoing and evolving conversation with children starting from a young age.
Toddler – Preschool Age
During these years, children learn about their own anatomy. Often they are exposed to the anatomy of another gender. These differences will not go unnoticed and often children will ask questions.
“Why does daddy pee standing up?” or “Where do babies come from?”
At this age it is not necessary to go into the long biological aspects of sexuality. What is important is to give simple answers. Research shows giving simple, correct information is best.
Some examples are:
- Using the terms for anatomy, such as penis, vulva, or breasts.
- Keep calm and do not assume questions mean anything other than simple curiosity.
- Use simple explanations for differences in behavior. Do not overemphasize socially constructed differences between boys and girls.
- Be prepared for repeated questions of the same topic. And the question, “Why?”
School Age (K-5)
As children enter school they will be surrounded by other children raised differently and exposed to streams of conflicting information. It is important as a parent to find a balance between learning from peers and feeling comfortable asking their parents for information. School age children will often hear terms which they are unfamiliar. Parents should use this time to give their children an accurate understanding of sexuality terms. Use online resources to aid in explain terms that are unfamiliar. Answer in a clear and excepting tone. Children of this age should not find shame in their curiosity. Parents should be their go to source of correct information.
Some examples of questions to expect at this age may include:
- What is an erection? This should be answered with simple anatomy, the penis is often soft, yet at times it gets hard and stiff, this is called an erection. If the child has a penis, this may be an appropriate way to explain that often it is beyond their control, and that is OK.
- What is a blow job? It may be proper to explain that this is referring to oral sex, this will depend on the age of the child and earlier education. Be simple and straight forward. This is also the perfect time to introduce the concept of consent.
- Can two girls have sex? (or two boys) The simple answer to this question is that any two people can engage in consensual sex. Children will often try to visualize how this works if they have a good understanding of sexual anatomy. Be prepared to explain that sex is not always penetrative. The most important thing to remember is to instill an accepting, non-judgement tone with the child. They are impressionable and will take on the tone of this conversation.
Preteen – Middle School Age
This age is perhaps the age of most input from peers. School buses, playgrounds, and lunchrooms are filled with children sharing information. Due to the hormonal changes that occur during this time, sexuality and gender are common topics. Comparisons with other children can cause anxiety and confusion at this age.
It is important to explain that individuals mature at different rates. The young girl who left fourth grade may return to fifth grade with breasts. The boy who had the high-pitched voice at the beginning of the year may grow 6 inches and have a deep voice by winter break. Young teens often need to be constantly reassured that no matter where they are in their development, they are normal. Children this age will often begin to question their sexuality in comparison with media and other relationships that they are exposed. They are trying to figure out who they are in reference to the world around them. Instituting an open-door, all questions are welcome stance will help parents to have an integral role with their children.
Parents should reflect on feelings and experiences they had at this age. Sharing these stories with children will help them to not feel alone in their confusion or curiosity.
Understanding consent is paramount at this age. Enthusiastic consent provides children with the power to protect themselves and others. Consequences of nonconsensual behavior should be discussed at this age. As well as consequences of behavior, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Children this age should learn the differences between biological sex, sexuality, and gender. Here is a simple explanation of these terms:
- Biological sex – the biology with which an individual is assigned at birth.
- Sexuality – the preference of whom someone is sexuality attracted; homosexual is someone attracted to individuals of the same gender, heterosexual is someone attracted to individuals of the opposite gender, and pan sexual is someone whose attraction is not based on biological sex or gender, sometimes called attracted to head and heart
- Gender – the performativity of ones sexuality. Gender identities can range anywhere on the spectrum from masculine to feminine or none at all. Cisgender is someone who identifies as their sexuality they were assigned at birth, often based on biology. Transgender is someone who identifies as something different from the sexuality they were assigned at birth.
Teen – Young Adult
Teens and young adults are often still trying to figure out their sexual and gender identities. As parents, it is important to be supportive of what choice teens and young adult make as long as they are being safe and conforming to standards of consent. During these years children will undergo many changes. Sexuality and gender are often fluid at this stage and may continue to change. Being an ever present positive support is the most important stance. Children who feel support from their parents, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity, tend to have better mental health and fewer issues as they enter into adulthood.
Keep it Simple and Ongoing
Ongoing communication is keep is key. Sex Positive parenting is simply being consistent and present for children. It is OK no to have all the answers right away. It is a process.