By: Julie Wu – Montreal Times
Back in the day, sex ed was taught in high school for a couple of weeks or something similar. Our parents may have mentioned it, had some kind of conversation about the birds and the bees, reproduction, etc. but in the end, most of us learned about sex through friends, TV, movies, and our social surroundings. Although most parents dread having the talk, it’s probably not a good idea to avoid the sex discussion. Parents, educators and our communities need to each proactively do our parts. No longer is sex just about the biology but it’s about respect, confidence and humility.
So where does one begin? As a parent, it’s important not to shy away from the questions. Talk to your kids truthfully, factually and appropriately based on their age, maturity and understanding or interest.
“Be prepared” – get a book, a bunch of books, check out the Internet and develop your own sex ed talking points. Talk to other parents, compare notes and be sure to relate to your kids otherwise they will tune you out.
“Listen” to what you child knows about sex and what the reality is in their social environment. Be sure to make it a two-way conversation.
“Be scientific and direct”, and answer any questions your child may have, without shame or embarrassment. Try practicing in front of a mirror until you can talk about it like it’s no big deal.
But more importantly than the basic sex 101 topics, this discussion is about RESPECT. Stuff happens and it happens more often than we think. Sex is more than just “sex”. It begins with building teens’ self esteem. Kids need the tools to combat peer pressure, their own insecurities, create their own identity and have a sense of belonging. Without this, knowing and behaving the right way to behave in a sexually context will be challenging.
Parents and educators need to teach children that their behaviors affect others, even the way they talk impacts others. Tweens and teens will try to ignore just how real words can be and how seriously it could affect their peers. It’s no longer just a joke or messing around, it can become harassment, and may sometimes lead to assault. The same applies to kissing and touching games. Some kids may not actually say “no” and participate but if you ask them, they often unwillingly take part so as not to be left out. Enthusiastic consent means that only “yes” means “yes”. Don’t wait for “no” and saying nothing is not a “yes” either.
There’s a large grey zone of touching, oral sex and non-intercourse sexual behavior that doesn’t get discussed but is perhaps the largest growing problem among teens. Talk honestly with kids about partying. Although it should be obvious, explain that when consuming alcohol or drugs can cloud or impair a person’s behavior and signals can become unclear therefore should not be touched. Also, be firm that the responsibility of the behavior is always on the perpetrator to make the right decision and not on the victim to have prevented the sex act. Healthy consent and respect are what is important.
If you are a parent with a teen and need advice on dealing with sexual behavior, contact AMCAL Family Services at (514) 694-3161 or for more information, www.amcal.ca