​Let’s Talk Month: Children of all Ages Can Learn about Sexuality!

Author: one tough job

This content was originally produced by onetoughjob.org guest contributor, Amy Cody of The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, for their Let’s Talk Month - October, 2016.

October isn’t just for Halloween and apple picking! It’s also Let’s Talk Month, when sexuality educators and sexual health advocates across the country encourage families to talk about sex and sexuality. Sexuality includes a wide range of topics including relationships, bodies and body image, reproduction, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. These conversations are for every family and for any age child!

Honest, open communication in families about sex and sexuality topics has significant benefits. Children who have frequent and open conversations with their parents about sex and sexuality have closer relationships with their parents and are more likely to make healthier, safer, and more responsible decisions related to sexuality. It’s never too early and it’s never too late to share age-appropriate facts as well as family values around sexuality with our children. One conversation parents can start and keep going even when children are young is the one about bodies and body image. After all, loving our bodies is part of being a healthy person and feeling good about our sexuality. Parents can promote self-esteem, self-worth and body confidence in children of any age by trying these parenting tips for promoting body confidence:

  • Less fat talk, more fun talk. Check your own behavior. Try replacing “I shouldn’t be eating this because it will make me fat” or “Do I look fat in this?” with “This is delicious! What a treat!”
  • Make health a habit. Shop for food and cook together. Try fun outdoor activities together. Listen to music and dance!
  • Eat when hungry; stop when full. Know the difference between hunger and boredom/anxiety, etc.
  • Acknowledge body changes through puberty (approximate ages of 9-16 years old.) “Your body is so lovely/wonderful as you are growing up. I hope you can enjoy it.”
  • Recognize negative feelings. “I’m sorry you are so sad.” “I can tell you’re very angry.” “It’s so disappointing when (fill in the blank) happens.”
  • Emphasize health, ability, emotions, and personal qualities more than looks. “You are so brave.” “You are so smart.” “You made a good decision.” “How do you feel?”
  • Keep an eye on your child’s social networks, texts and other online comments for bullying and negative comments.

Talking about sex and sexuality with your children can be intimidating and at times might feel awkward, but the more you talk, the easier it gets. And remember, you’re not alone! Planned Parenthood believes parents should be the primary sexuality educators of their children and we have a number of resources and workshops to help parents and caregivers start the conversations that will keep kids healthy.

If you want regular, up-to-date information and tips sign up for The Parent Buzz, a bi-monthly newsletter about talking with kids about sex and sexuality, dealing with developmentally appropriate sexuality topics, adolescent sexual behavior, useful web, phone and book resources, and suggested answers to typical questions youth may ask.

about the author

Amy Cody, M.Ed.

For the past eleven years, Amy has served as the Manager of Planned Parenthood Leagueof Massachusetts’s Let's Be Honest parent education program, designed to support parents or other caring adults as the primary sexuality educators of their children through workshops, resources and newsletters. She was a PPLM community health educator for three years prior, developing and teaching comprehensive sexuality education to middle and high school students, youth in DSS and DYS care, and parent groups and professionals who work with youth. Amy also has worked as a field supervisor for graduate and undergraduate students at Wheelock College, an elementary school teacher, an environmental sciences teacher at the Massachusetts Audubon Society and previously owned a floral design business and retail shop. In her “free time” Amy serves on the Crystal Lake Conversation Task Force and volunteers for The Second Step, a transitional program for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. She loves to garden, care for her bee hive, walk her dog, go on long hikes and play tennis and golf. She and her husband have a son who lives in San Francisco, and a daughter and son-in-law who live in Baltimore.

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