If you are expecting a blog post chock-full of shockingly juicy confessions, this one is NOT for you. Those will have to wait until my memoir is published posthumously (which, I hope, is no time soon). However, I do want to share few tidbits that—dare I say—help me be the best “Sex Ed Mom” to my children (and other peoples’ children) that I can be.
Confession #1: I had great sex educators in my life.
We all know that it is essential to communicate openly and honestly about sexuality with our sons and daughters—early and often. I was fortunate to have parents, teachers, and other adults in my life who were very open to discussing sexuality. I cannot recall if any question was too offensive, too outrageous, or too embarrassing to ask them…and I am fairly certain there were a few doozies over the years! What I do remember is feeling comfortable and safe asking them, knowing that they would tell me the truth or help me find the answer. I guess you could say that they modeled some of the most important skills I learned as a sexuality educator and Sex Ed Mom: be accessible, open, and honest.
Confession #2: I had practice.
Long before I had my own children, I was committed to communicating openly to other people’s children about sex and sexuality. Whether it was my family or the students in my sexuality education programs, it was important to provide them as much information as possible about their bodies, relationships, and sexual decision making so that they could lead healthy and successful lives. It was great practice for when my own kids arrived on the scene many years later and (I hope!) will continue to guide me as they get older.
Confession #3: Topics I think are for public discourse (e.g., periods, masturbation, and condoms) are not always well-received by others.
Funny, though, sometimes when I do bring up these topics in conversation, it can be an amazing icebreaker! Which leads me to Confession #4…
Confession #4: I love talking to other parents about sexuality and reproductive health.
Once word gets out that you are a Sex Ed Mom, be prepared to have conversations about sex and sexuality with other parents (and grandparents!) on the sidelines of your kids’ sports games or while roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Questions will inevitably include the following: when and how to talk to kids about body changes, the “bird and the bees,” HIV and AIDS, gender stereotypes, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Honestly, as long as these conversations don’t distract me from seeing my daughter’s amazing save in the soccer goal or watch my son crush the soccer ball in the back of the net, OR cause me to drop my marshmallow in the flames, I welcome these conversations and hope to have many, many more like them as our kids grow older.
Confession #5: I’m not perfect…not even close!
After all these years of teaching parents and other caregivers about communicating about sexuality, I still make mistakes and expect to make plenty more. What gives me comfort is that I am granted plenty of mulligans; I can circle back and clarify things I said or expand on ideas and concepts with my kids, and my kids can do the same with me! Now, imagine if every family threaded conversations about sex and sexuality into everyday activities. What if…during long trips you powered-off your devices and turned off the radio to talk about body changes? What if… during meals it would be no big deal to ask you kids to pass the pepper and if any of their friends are “dating” and what that means at their age? What if…as your children go to sleep you could assure them that everything that is happening to their body is normal and beautiful?
Confession #6: I am optimistic.
I think, with a little courage, knowledge, and practice, each of us can shape the next generation of Sex Ed Moms (and Sex Ed Dads, and Sex Ed Aunts and Sex Ed Uncles, too!).
Do you have any sex ed confessions to share?
Talk to you on the sidelines!
Deborah Chilcoat, MEd, is a Senior Training and Technical Assistance Manager at Healthy Teen Network.