Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships.
Parents of LGBTQ children often feel especially uncomfortable and unequipped when they try to educate them about sex and dating.
Here are the top 3 reasons why parents won’t talk about sex with their children:
- Parents don’t know enough about sex themselves.
If you are a parent, obviously, you know enough about sex to have created a child. Even though we may be having sex, we might not know enough about it to teach healthy sexuality to a child. Most parents know the basic biology of human sexuality. We know the names of male and female anatomical parts. We know the basics of conception—the fertilization of the egg by the sperm.
After these basics, there is a huge lack of knowledge. Many parents do not have adequate knowledge of sexually transmitted infections or HIV. Discussing disease transmission is a big part of discussing healthy sexuality with a child that moves beyond the biological mechanics of sex.
Another aspect of teaching healthy sexuality is teaching about healthy relationships. Teaching children about consent, healthy communication, partnership, intimacy, etc. are all part of teaching healthy sexuality. We also teach children through modelling of behaviour. If parents are not talking about healthy relationships with their children and are modelling dysfunction (i.e., emotional or physical abuse, disconnection, avoidance, etc.), they are actually teaching unhealthy sexuality to their children.
- Parents think their children will learn about healthy sexuality in school.
Many parents do not talk with their children about sex and sexuality because they think that the topic is taught to their children in school. While some schools may teach human sexuality, how and what they teach is highly variable and depends on the school district in which the family lives. Even if you live in a state where sex education is mandated, do you know what they are teaching? In United States, only 19 states require that the information taught in sex education classes is medically accurate. This fact was mind blowing to me when I read it.
Many parents also do not get involved or ask about the information being taught to their children in sex education to find out, first, what is being taught and, second, if the information is accurate.
Many schools that do provide curriculum on sex education do not teach about healthy relationships nor do they teach about sex in the digital age, skipping topics such as online pornography and sexting. If you are relying on the school to teach your children about sex, they may be getting no information, misinformation, or minimal information.
- Parents are in denial.
Denial is one of the biggest issues that I come across preventing parents from talking to their children. If a parent is in denial about what their child is doing sexually or what they have seen online, they are not going to even be thinking about my first two points.
If you think that your 12-year-old child has not seen pornography online, think again. The average age of first exposure to online pornography is between 9 and 11 years old. This means that if you have not had proactive talks with your child by this age, you have missed the boat.Thinking that your child has never seen online pornography is denial in its truest form.
Your child’s exposure to online pornography is not a judgment of them or a statement of character. It is not a reflection of your parenting skills either. It is likely a statement of fact. This does not mean that your child is actively seeking out the imagery or is a frequent user of pornography, but simply that he or she has seen it. If they have seen it, they may have questions about it or they may have confused feelings which a discussion with their parent might help them sort out.
What we do know from the research is that children do want more education about sex relationships. They even want that information to come from their parents. It is up to you to supplement and improve that education. In fact you are the first educator for your child, that includes sexual health education.